2013 Fellows: What We’re Thankful For


Ben Ra’anan, M.S. student at Moss landing Marine Laboratories, San Jose State University, presenting his first stab at his thesis research message box during a lab meeting this fall.

Note from Pam: In the spirt of the holidays, I asked our 2013 fellows what they were thankful for from their Leopold experience — a tool or skill from their core training, an insight that has stuck, a new time-saving practice, or anything else that has stood out. Erika McPhee-Shaw starts off the conversation here.

The Leopold training helps me every single day and it would be hard to overstate how thankful I am for all that you have given us. One of the most important insights I have carried with me since the summer training is the newly clear understanding that networking is the very best way to solve many problems. I am a natural networker, one of those types who likes talking to other people and making connections. But as a scientist coming from a physics/engineering academic home, I have always felt a bit of pressure against working as a “networker.” Instead, I often felt that the only valued approach to problem solving was elegant theoretical work. The brilliant-mathematician-toiling-alone-in-a-closed-room type concept. This summer’s Leopold training shattered that wacky notion completely and gave me the confidence to know I am doing it just right by sitting down to map a network and get on the phone!

The message box training has also been incredibly valuable, and it is something I have been using throughout this semester with my own graduate students. Each student must write a proposal for their MS thesis research, and I have been working with our lab group to have each student write out the message box for their thesis ideas. This is an exciting time for them to do this exercise because they are only in the initial stages of their research. This work clarifies their goals, and I have been so proud to hear them explain their work to visiting scientists or other professors — they do such a great job and are so confident that their science is valuable and useful.

Erika McPhee-Shaw, a coastal geographer, is an Associate Professor at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, San Jose State University and a 2013 Leopold Leadership Fellow.