Category Archives: Research

Art Sale @ SMFA at Tufts

Logo artwork by SMFA Print faculty Rhoda Rosenberg

Written by Lennon Wolcott, M.F.A. 2017

Recently I was in a Lyft talking with the driver about the greater Boston community. As he was a Boston native, we discussed the things one learns when moving to the area for school.  As I was telling him that I had graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, he turned his head and said “Wait, so you’re an artist?” His shock subsided, and he asked what kind of work I made, then followed up to my response with “I never would have thought you were an artist because you’re so open and social.”

I smiled politely, and informed him that I had grown to be open and in dialog about my work from my years at SMFA at Tufts. I told him that artists thrive with connection, engagement, and the kind of community support I had experienced.

The misconception that artists are sullen creatures, only found tormented and lamenting in their studios is out of date and counterintuitive to the artist’s educational path. Sure, artists can be frustrated like anyone else, however artists pursue graduate arts education not only for instruction, but to build a network of trusted mentors and colleagues. One of the aspects that I love about the SMFA community is its focused events, such as the upcoming SMFA Art Sale.

Every year, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts welcomes alumni, faculty, and the supporting community to come back to the school to showcase and sell their work in the sale. The event gives alumni a voice within the school while at the same time provides the greater Boston community with a chance to view and purchase work by established and emerging artists. Like many of my colleagues, mentors, and friends, I look forward to the opening reception and the chance to catch up with the contemporary Boston community and see some amazing artwork that will be exhibited and sold!

This year, the sale opens on Thursday, November 15th with a public reception that evening and runs through Sunday, November 18th. This is a great opportunity to engage with the artistic community of SMFA at Tufts, and perhaps strike up a conversation with some amazing artists.

 

OPENING RECEPTION Please join the SMFA community on Thursday, November 15, at 5:30 p.m., for light fare, cash bar, music, and more!

PUBLIC DAYS Thursday, November 15–Saturday, November 17, 11:00 a.m.– 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 18, 11:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m.

SCHOOL OF THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS AT TUFTS 230 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115

FOR MORE INFORMATION call 617-627-SMFA (7632) or email SMFAartsale@tufts.edu.

Preparing to Defend

 

Preparing to defend my thesis was the most mentally, emotionally, and at times, physically, challenging part of graduate school. After my final field season, I thought it was going to be easy. All I have to do is write. I’ve written a ton. Piece of cake.

I was so wrong.

Yes, as graduate students we write a lot. During my time in graduate school, I wrote scientific papers, grant proposals, popular science articles, blog posts, etc. But I had never written about the same subject so continuously. I started to get sick of my study system (honey bees), which made me sad, because I love honey bees!

When I finally handed my thesis in to my committee, I had to prepare for the actual defense. This was also a challenge. What papers should I read? What is my committee going to ask me? What if they hate my thesis?

In the end, it all worked out. I successfully defended my thesis and the defense was enjoyable! I didn’t need to stress as much as I did.

Preparing to defend your thesis is going to be challenging, but here are some things I realized that may keep you from psyching yourself out too much.

Use a citation manager!

First, a specific piece of advice: start using a citation manager when you get to grad school, keep it updated, and use it consistently! This will make the references section of your thesis much easier to deal with. I didn’t start using a citation manager until year three, and when it came time to write the thesis in year five, I was not happy with past Rachael. I use EndNote but there are many other options and the library hosts workshops on almost all of them.

Keep your committee in the loop.

Throughout your time in graduate school, talk to your committee. Update them on data at committee meetings, discuss methods, ask for suggestions on writing when relevant. If you do this throughout graduate school, your committee won’t be surprised at defense time, and neither will you. If you take the time to get to know your committee members, you may be able to anticipate their questions.

I realize this doesn’t work for that external committee member you may be required to have. When choosing your external committee member, choose someone who knows your field, and read his/her relevant papers. I did this for my external committee member, and I was able to successfully anticipate some of her questions. Also, when it comes to your external member, don’t be afraid to ask around. Ask past graduate students from your lab who they chose and why; ask about their experience in the closed defense.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Remember, the written thesis you hand in to your committee is technically a draft. As a perfectionist, this was difficult for me. I was working so hardto make every chapter, every figure, every page, so that it could be publication ready. But with a document that long, it may not be possible in the time you have. And that’s ok. Part of your committee’s job is to suggest edits, which you can then use when/if you publish.

It’s a conversation.

On defense day, I was most worried about the closed defense. What if they hate my research? What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?

Part of these nerves will be alleviated by fostering a relationship with your committee. Also, think of the closed defense as a conversation rather than a “grilling” session. Your committee asks you questions, you answer the questions as best you can. Some questions lead to other questions. It’s just a discussion– a discussion about something you’ve been studying for 4 – 6 years and you know really well.

My closed defense was a fun, productive experience. Sure, I couldn’t answer some of the bigger, theoretical questions, but it was fun to brainstorm and discuss ideas.

Take care of yourself.

Even if you follow all my advice, preparing to defend is going to be difficult. Graduate school is supposed to be hard. Throughout this process (and all of graduate school), remember to take care of yourself.

Countless hours of sitting at a computer takes a toll on your body (this is the physical challenge). Take breaks to stretch or go for a walk. Give your eyes a break from the screen. Drink water. Eat food. (Both sound simple but trust me, you might forget.)

Stay active, whatever that means to you. Do yoga, go for a run, kickbox, get outside, play a board game, grab coffee with friends. And don’t feel guilty about taking time away from school to stay active! Your mental health is important. Your mental health is important. Your mental health is important.

 Remember, you are not alone.

Writing a thesis is an inherently isolating process. Don’t let it get to the point where you feel like you’re alone, because you’re not. Talk to past graduate students from your lab (this was my greatest therapy while writing/preparing to defend), attend the graduate writing exchange, visit family, grab coffee with friends (yes, I’m saying it again).

Graduate school takes a village and you have a support system in your mentor, your committee, your friends, your family. Use that support system.

 And finally, celebrate!

Following your defense, take time to celebrate your accomplishment! Getting a higher degree takes dedication, ambition, and a lot of hard work. You deserve to be proud of yourself!

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. 2018

The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a TA

Written by Priyanjana Pramanik, Economics M.A. 2018

I’ve been a TA now for a little more than a year, which means that I have wisdom to share (not really, but I’ll try). Being a teaching assistant has been exhausting, rewarding, and, much to my surprise, quite enjoyable. Now, this might be a little disorganized, but I’ll try to make it as educational as possible. I’ll skip the basics: you know the absolute no-no’s! I’m going to go straight to the stuff that I think is making me a better TA than I was before.

When I started out last year, I was absolutely terrified. I remembered every tiny bit of advice that I’d been given, including ‘never apologize’, ‘don’t let them know you’re afraid’, ‘never give out your cell phone number’, and loads more, but honestly, all that stuff just scared me more. My first recitation didn’t go well. Nor did the second. In fact, I don’t remember feeling like I’d done justice to a single recitation session the entire semester.

Which brings me to my first don’t. Don’t make the recitation about yourself. It’s very easy to do that because you’re in front of a classroom, and you have performance anxiety, and you feel continuously judged. But it isn’t about how you do. Your job is to get through the material that you’ve been told to cover, because the students in your recitation need help with it. They’re struggling with concepts that you, the grad student, already know, and you can help them! It’s all about them. While it may seem pretty basic, making my recitations about the students and what they needed, instead of focusing on how I was doing, improved my performance in recitations a great deal.

However, all the best intentions in the world aren’t going to help you if you aren’t familiar with the material. This is especially true for concepts that you’ve known for a very long time. For me, as an economics grad student, that includes things related to probability, random variables and other statistical matters that I’ve been working with now for about five years. (Yes, five years.) And the problem with being over-familiar with concepts is that they seem simple to you, and you don’t simplify them enough when explaining them. You skip steps because in your mind, they’re obvious. The way out is simple. Prepare for recitations! Especially if it’s stuff you know. Sometimes I practice my spiel for lab sessions on my classmates. Occasionally I’ve practiced over Skype on my long-suffering boyfriend.

There are two other very good reasons for preparing for recitations. One is that it makes you feel less nervous. The other is that you can focus less on the material and more on how students are responding to it. You become more aware when they understand something you just said, and when it wasn’t clear enough. Making eye contact also helps. For someone like me, that can be a challenge, but it’s extremely useful.

Try and make things interactive. This year, for example, when I’m doing practice problems with my recitation section, I’ve had them make little groups. I give them a few minutes to work on it, and then we go through it together. Students feel more comfortable sharing their work when they’re not alone. They get nervous too!

Last pieces of advice. Don’t sweat the grading. Put some music on, be as consistent as you can, and don’t think too much about it. Set boundaries. Don’t set a precedent for always responding to emails in half an hour, or having extra meetings for students who can’t make it to office hours. I try to be as accommodating as I can, but it’s important to get the message across that you have a lot on your plate too. A lot. Don’t look at other TAs and think, I wish I could do such a good job. Be yourself, and you’re going to find a teaching style that makes you absolutely awesome. Finally, ask for help whenever you’re unsure. The professor you work with will be happy to clear up any doubts you have.

Anyway, remember those horrible recitations I was having last fall? When I got back to school for the Spring semester, I found a card in my mailbox from one of my students, thanking me and telling me that they really appreciated what I’d done in recitations. Guess I wasn’t such a bad TA after all.

 

Looking back: what Tufts gave me

Written by Amanda Franklin, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

I’m coming up to the end of my PhD which means I’ve spent almost five years at Tufts University. I’m becoming nostalgic as the time to leave comes closer, and I’ve been thinking more about all the amazing experiences I’ve had in the USA. I thought I’d share with you some of the good memories Tufts has given me (and hopefully it’s not too sappy!).

Me on fieldwork in Belize. I conducted my fieldwork at the Smithsonian research station on Carrie Bow Caye.

I moved to Boston in 2012 with my husband. When we moved, we knew no one in Boston and I’d never been to the USA before. Tufts has many facilities to help international students with the move. For example, the International Center can help with the essentials like paperwork and visas, and they also host events to help you get settled and meet other international grad students. One event that stands out is the international student orientation event. At that event I met some wonderful people that I could chat with about American culture. We became great friends and still regularly chat even though we now live in different states.

The Graduate Student Council also organizes many outings and activities which makes it easy to meet other grad students. At these events, I had the chance to get to know other students in the Biology Department, and also to meet grad students in other departments. I now consider these friends my “American Family”, and wouldn’t be able to live here without them. A good graduate student council is so helpful for meeting people in an unfamiliar land!

Tufts also provided great support for my research. As my research plan developed, it became clear that I was going to need a fair amount of research funds (I had decided that I wanted to conduct fieldwork in Belize). The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a grad student grant program. This scheme was useful to me on several levels: I received feedback on my proposals, I was awarded research funds, and I had the opportunity to assess and provide feedback on other students’ proposals. In fact, this inside view of how grants are assessed was the most helpful part to improve my grant writing skills. I definitely recommend it if you get the chance!

One project I conducted was a collaboration with the Tytell lab. They lent their expertise in biomechanics so that we could measure force of mantis shrimp punches.

Throughout my time, I secured enough funds to go to Belize six times. Part of the reason I could schedule so many trips was that the Bio Department is very supportive. If necessary, we can TA two classes in one semester so that we can go on fieldwork in the next semester. We also are financially supported over summer, which is essential as most ecology grad students need to do fieldwork over summer. My field trips not only gave me that chance to dive the Belizean barrier reef, but I could conduct research in the natural environment of my study species (mantis shrimp), and meet marine biologists from across the US. It was an amazing opportunity I’ll never forget.

Another great thing about Tufts is the faculty. Everyone wants the grad students to succeed and are willing to help you out if you ask. Even better, they are all so enthusiastic about research and will gladly collaborate on research projects. I have collaborated with other labs in the Bio Department and also with labs outside of the Bio Department. This collaborative atmosphere has allowed me to learn about other research fields and develop different skills.

Sunset over Tufts campus after a winter storm.

When you need a break from academics, the Tufts campus is so beautiful to walk around. I will definitely miss seeing the four seasons pass by. I spent many days in summer sitting outside and reading papers. I loved to do this on the library roof which has a nice garden and a view out over Boston. Fall was gorgeous on campus with all the leaves changing color. I have a favorite tree that looks like it’s on fire if you catch it at the right time (pro-tip: it’s near the corner of Winthrop and Capen St). I also enjoy seeing Tufts campus with a fresh layer of snow, even though I hate the cold and slipping around on ice. And then my favorite season, Spring, comes along. Trees covered in colorful flowers in stark contrast to the lack of color during winter. It’s stunning.

I have so many fond memories of Tufts and my time here as passed way too quickly. It certainly does not feel like almost five years have passed. I’ve tried to see and do as much as I can while I’ve been here, but I still feel like there’s more to do (e.g. I never went whale watching! Don’t worry though, just booked it in for a treat after my defense). So, if you do choose Tufts, seize every opportunity (and there will be many)! Your time here will pass by before you know it.

New Year, New Bloggers!

Medford/Somerville, MA 4/23/08 -- Bendetson Hall on the Medford Campus on Wednesday April 23, 2008.

Greetings from the Office of Graduate Admissions! I’m Gabrielle Thomas, one of the many faces behind the scenes in admissions, and our Tufts ASE Grad Blogs! When our office started this blog a year ago, we wanted it to be a space where our graduate students could connect across the two schools, the many academic disciplines, and social platforms. However, this connection is not limited to our current students. We hope to give prospective applicants a peek into life as a graduate student here at Tufts, as well as provide our alumni with the opportunity to remain up to date on all things Jumbo. Basically, these blogs are diary entries of our students that thread the story of our past, present, and future as part of the Tufts community.

Of course a diary would have no pages without someone to write them, and in this case that would be our amazing graduate student bloggers. We started with a wonderful group of 4 bloggers that helped to launch the site last year. They spanned both the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering with research that included stomatopods, clever robots, and bees! They shared updates on their research, how to maintain a social life while in graduate school (!), and the paths that have ultimately lead them to Tufts.

We found these blogs to be such delightful reads that we’re continuing the fun! A new school year of course means…new graduate bloggers. We now have 9 bloggers to continue filling the pages of our diary, and their stories will provide you with some great reading material. Our new cohort of bloggers can be found in many places around campus; the psychology department researching the role of media in body image issues, working on the social committee of the Graduate Student Council, or making the sauna in the gym the new social hub of campus.

We are very excited for the second year of our blogs and hope you all enjoy! Don’t forget to keep in touch by following us on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy holidays & happy reading!
Gabrielle

Pollen. It’s what’s for dinner.

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

Imagine if your diet changed with the seasons. And it was out of your control.

During the spring, you can only eat cheese pizza. That’s it.

During the summer, you can eat pizza with any toppings you want. Finally, you have variety!

During the fall, you can either eat mushroom pizza or pepperoni pizza. No more variety.

And then during the winter, you must survive on any leftover pizza you might have saved.

That’s essentially what it’s like for honey bees.

I study nutritional ecology in honey bees; I am interested in how seasonal changes in honey bee diet affect honey bee behavior and health. Honey bees get most of their nutrients from nectar and pollen in flowers. Their diet naturally shifts with the seasons, and they have no control over it.

In New England, honey bees start the spring with mainly dandelions. In the summer, they have lots of diverse wildflowers and weeds to choose from. In the fall, there is basically only golden rod and aster available. And then in the winter, honey bees survive on the honey they made from the nectar they collected throughout the year. Their leftovers are really important.

This past summer, my interns and I set up 9 bee hives at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (more on that here). Once our hives were set up, 3 hives were left alone as our control hives, 3 hives were fed a semi-synthetic protein-diverse diet, and 3 hives were fed a semi-synthetic protein-deficient diet. The protein-diverse diet represented a diet made up of lots of flowers, or a polyfloral diet. The protein-deficient diet represented a diet made up of just one type of flower, or a monofloral diet.

Throughout the summer, we asked a couple questions.

First, would the bees fed the monofloral diet spend more time looking for food than the bees fed the polyfloral diet? To answer this question, we sat outside each hive and counted the number of bees leaving the hive. Since bees only leave the hive when they’re on the hunt for food, these counts gave us a good idea about the time spent collecting food. With 9 hives to collect data from, I had a lot of help this summer. Data collection would not have been possible without my interns!

Rachael Bonoan 10-26-16 blog pic 4

Tufts NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates intern Joanna Chang measuring foraging effort of a hive.

Lexington High School student Adam Winter measuring foraging effort of a hive.

Lexington High School student Adam Winter measuring foraging effort of a hive.

Second, would bees fed the monofloral diet collect pollen from more diverse floral sources than bees fed the polyfloral diet? In contrast to bees fed a nutrient-rich polyfloral diet, bees fed a nutrient-deficient monofloral diet likely need to supplement their diet. A way to supplement your diet? Eat different foods! For this question, we installed pollen traps on our hives. The pollen traps allow the bees to forage freely but there is an extra barrier to get through when they return to the hive with pollen. Bees carry pollen back to the hive on their legs.

Video of honey bees returning to the hive with pollen

The pollen trap has bee-sized mesh holes that returning bees need to crawl through. Since the mesh holes are just bee-sized, the pollen pellets get knocked off their legs and fall into a drawer. The drawer can be pulled out from the back of the hive and we have our pollen samples!

Rachael Bonoan 10-26-16 blog pic 2

Pollen trap drawer full of pollen.

Rachael Bonoan 10-26-16 blog pic 1

Close-up of inside the drawer of pollen.

Just last week, I sent our pollen samples out to Jonah Ventures, a company that will run DNA metabarcoding analyses on our samples. DNA metabarcoding allows Jonah Ventures to take our mixed sample of pollen, and identify which plants our bees collected pollen from. I should have that data back from Jonah Ventures by the end of the week!

The data analysis is ongoing so I don’t have any conclusive answers to our questions just yet but stay tuned!

Summer: Sun, travel and research

Written by Amanda Franklin, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

The dogwoods are flowering, there are tulips in the garden, and Tufts campus is becoming pretty empty: it’s summer break! It might not be summer break like in undergrad (several months of part time work and lying on the beach for me), but it does mean fewer commitments. I am no longer a teaching assistant, I don’t have lab meetings, and I don’t have a department seminar. So much more time for research, travel, and conferences!

And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this summer.

In a few weeks, my family is visiting from Australia. We’re going to travel around some of the US national parks. Previously we’ve been to a bunch on the west coast, so this time we are heading to the Midwest and Northwest. It’ll be my first time in this region so I’m super excited not only for the national parks, but also to see a new part of the country. It’s great having the opportunity to see the US whilst living here!

My brother and I are going to fly into Denver, quickly check out the Rockies and then drive up to Rapid City, South Dakota to meet my parents. Many people have looked at me like I have no clue what I’m doing when I mention we’re going to South Dakota. But in South Dakota, there is The Badlands National Park, Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore. From here we head to Grand Tetons NP and Yellowstone NP. I really hope we see some bison there and maybe, if we are really lucky, some wolves. We then take an 8-hour drive to Glacier National Park, which will still have a lot of snow and ice around, before finishing off in Banff National Park in Canada. It’s going to be a fantastic trip!

Summer is also when a lot of academic conferences are held. One of my favorite conferences is ISBE – International Society for Behavioural Ecology. It is held every second year in different places around the world. This July/August, it will be in Exeter in the UK. I am really lucky because I have secured funds from the Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as well as ISBE to help cover the costs of attending this conference. It is going to be really beneficial for me to meet people in my field and hear about the latest research. I’m also hoping I can fit in a visit to Harry Potter Studios in London!

The last, and most important, benefit of summer is the extra time I have to do research! I can spend the days conducting experiments rather than fitting experiments in around my other commitments. This summer I am starting two new experiments, so the extra time is really beneficial to get them up and running. One project will be investigating whether changes in environmental conditions affects stomatopod (mantis shrimp) communication. Stomatopods are very visual, so any changes that affect the light environment could reduce the effectiveness of visual signals. The second involves recording stomatopod punch force. Stomatopods can punch extremely hard (they have been known to break aquarium glass) and I’m investigating whether they signal their strength before punching. The biology department at Tufts is really broad, so I have the opportunity to work with the Tytell lab to complete this project. They are experts in biomechanics, so it’ll be great to collaborate and learn from them.

Summer is a great time of year for a grad student. The extra time for the activities mentioned above is really wonderful. But in addition to that, events start popping up left, right, and center. Porchfest in Somerville, free jazz on the Harbor Islands, and outdoor craft and farmer’s markets all over. Everyone loves to get out and about after the winter. Summer in Boston really is my favorite time of year!

My year in review and one thing I wish I knew when I started

Written by Vasanth Sarathy, Computer Science Ph.D. Candidate

Vasanth 5-27-16 pic

Super Mario Bros. 2

It’s hard to believe that I am done with my first full academic year at Tufts. I know everyone says time flies, but I often find that expression to be meaningless in the moment and unhelpful in hindsight. When I am going through a challenging time I rarely feel like time flies and when it’s done, I don’t find myself at peace with the knowledge that it went by quickly. But, sometimes, not always, that expression can bring to bear something quite empowering and confidence-boosting: the idea that experiences, both good and bad, are fleeting and must be, for the lack of a better term, experienced and learned from. I learned a lot this past year, and if there is one thing I wish I knew when I started is to have confidence in myself and in my commitment to learn. It can be challenging entering a new environment, but I think it is okay to strive to be confident in your own abilities and experiences.

I am a Computer Science and Cognitive Science student, which means I am required to take CS classes and also classes in other cognitive science topics like Philosophy and Psychology. I love learning new things and this past year has been all about learning fun new concepts. I learned about interesting questions in Computer Science like what is the computational complexity of video games like Super Mario Brothers, which by the way was proven to be NP-Complete (math-speak for really, really hard for computers) by our own Tufts Professor Greg Aloupis. For the mathematically inclined amongst us, see here for proof. I was able to learn about fascinating and profound philosophical questions about our own minds, consciousness and the ties between cognitive science and artificial intelligence with none other than Professor Dan Dennett. Philosophy, math, and computer science came together in a single class this semester for me as I learned about Turing Machines and the limits of what computers can do, all from Tufts’ award-wining Professor Ben Hescott. Ben brought a level of excitement, entertainment and humor to theoretical computer science that I have never seen. Check out this news story about him. Who knew humor could help with learning. Apparently researchers looking into this very question did all along!

Besides learning how to answer questions, I also got the opportunity to learn how to ask them in my research. I explored some interesting questions around how we perceive objects in our environment. How do we reason that sometimes we can use coins as screwdrivers or pens as bottle openers? Believe me, I tried it and it really works! Asking these questions and beginning to find answers to them has allowed me to travel to scientific conferences this past year and afforded me the opportunity find mentors and discuss my work with other researchers.

I also discovered all the great programs and opportunities Tufts has for folks who want to learn to share their ideas. We had Tufts Ignite, Cognitive Science Graduate Symposium and the Tufts Graduate Research Symposium, to name a few. In addition, the Greater-Boston area celebrates Cambridge Science festival every year and this year, the postdoctoral researchers from Tufts and MGH put together a great spotlight talks event at the Rattlesnake in Boston. Several graduate students and postdocs from Tufts and MGH gave short talks to the general public (and I really mean general public) about their research. I had the good fortune of being involved in these talks and I really began to appreciate the importance of communicating your ideas to the world.

So, looking back, it has been an exciting first year. I thought being confident was about how much you knew. If you wanted to be confident in programming then you should know Java, right? But, having completed my first year (and learning Java), I am humbled by the discovery of all the new things I must now learn. It appears as I learn, the amount there is left to learn keeps growing, and growing at a faster and faster rate. As daunting as this sounds, I began to realize that this is a good thing. It means I can now shift my focus from maximizing what to learn to instead optimizing my learning process. Being confident is not about how much you know, but about your commitment to learning and the quality of your process of learning.

I am looking forward to the summer, when I get to dig a bit deeper into my research, work with and mentor some talented undergrads, and build robots!

Happy summer!

Spring Break!

Written by Amanda Franklin, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

Last week was spring break. And it is actually starting to feel like spring! The crocuses are coming up, the weather is getting warmer–slowly)–and the days are getting longer. It’s my favorite time of year. I love seeing the flowers everywhere and it’s nice to know winter is as far away as possible (I am not a fan of the cold!).

This spring break I did not leave Boston. Instead I used the break to catch up on work. I’m a grad student in the Biology department at Tufts and I research communication in stomatopods (mantis shrimp—pods for short). If you don’t already know, stomatopods are the coolest animals ever! They have the most complex vision that we know of and they punch so hard that they can break glass! Seriously, you should google them.

Anyway, back to spring break. I needed to get new pods in the lab. This means I spent my spring break cleaning up The ‘Pod (yes, I do call my lab that). I realise this doesn’t sound enthralling, but it was a nice change from all the writing I’ve been doing recently. In a way, it was therapeutic. I just tuned into my favourite radio station, Triple J – it’s an Aussie station, I highly recommend it–and cleaned until the room was fit for 24 pods to live in.

Amanda Franklin 4-1-16 Blog pic 1

Me, cleaning my heart out.

This took a long time. You won’t believe how dirty a saltwater room can get. I hadn’t properly cleaned The ‘Pod since November – the last time I got new pods in. There was salt coating everything and a thin layer of algal growth on anything that was within a tank. I don’t use any bleach or soaps because this could harm the next animals I put in the tank. So it was all grunt work.

I also had to repair some tanks. Each tank is divided into three compartments. This is so I can have three pods in each tank. Without the dividers, the pods would fight each other. But I also need water to flow throughout the entire tank for filtration and aeration. So there are holes cut into the dividers which are covered with flyscreen. Unfortunately pods enjoy breaking through these. So I had to stick many of these back on. I also had to put dividers in two new tanks because two old tanks had a leak.

Me, cleaning my heart out.

There are eight of these fly screen coverings in each of eight tanks. Lucky I didn’t have to repair every one!

After all this, I refilled all the tanks, checked all the filters and heaters were working and voila! I had a clean pod room. It did take me the entire week, but it’s worth the effort to keep the stomatopods happy!

Amanda Franklin 4-1-16 Blog pic 3

Sparkling clean! I didn’t take a ‘before’ photo so you’ll have to trust me, it’s MUCH better.

And this week I got a delivery of new pods! I have an excellent supplier, Keith, in Florida. He catches as many pods as I need and ships them overnight to Tufts. I have never had one die during transit when ordering from Keith. I am now a proud mum of dozens of stomatopods!

Amanda Franklin 4-1-16 Blog pic 5 Amanda Franklin 4-1-16 Blog pic 4

Two new pods in the lab! The left is a female and the right is a male.

Even though I didn’t travel for my spring break. I made excellent progress on my research. It is nice to use the time when I don’t have teaching or mentoring commitments to get a lot of work done. Also, it means I can take some time off in the summer to explore national parks with my family when they visit from Australia!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Dean Cook pic

Written by Robert Cook

Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Psychology


As we look toward wrapping up another school year here at Tufts, we also celebrate some new beginnings. The newly admitted students to our graduate programs are weighing their options, checking out websites, and visiting with professors and current students to decide which program is THE program.

There are many factors to consider when deciding which school to choose. Among the questions you might be asking with respect to Tufts are:

“Will I be challenged in my field?”

Absolutely. Our first-class faculty are experts in their fields, recognized for their commitment to excellence. As a research-intensive university with excellent resources, our size allows us to provide students with personal experiences and individualized mentoring.

“Will I have the opportunity to hone my skills?

Yes. Our extensive professional development program lets students practice their presentation skills, dig deeper into how to secure funding, and hone their ability to teach undergraduates. Our goal is to make sure you are prepared for the next step in your career.

“Is Boston the right place for me?”

The answer for most students is a clear “yes”. The greater Boston area provides countless educational, social and cultural opportunities. Our students find that their time at Tufts is enhanced by our proximity to the city. Some people ask about the ability to find affordable housing close by – it is definitely possible, and our current students are a great source for information about what to look for and when to begin your search. The “Starting at Tufts” link in your admissions letter is also a valuable source of information.

“Will I be happy there”?

This is perhaps the most important question. Implicit in that question is whether you will form personal relationships with mentors and classmates. The answer for our students is a resounding YES! We pride ourselves on working closely with students, supporting them as they work toward their goals and celebrating accomplishments along the way. In my job as dean, it’s important to me that our students feel a sense of personal connection to their work and to the larger Tufts community. Only then do I know we’re doing our job of nurturing the next generation of scholars and teachers and setting them up for success.

So, as you ponder your choices for advanced study, I hope that you’ll find a good match for your academic and personal goals. As someone who has spent the past 30 years at the university, my belief is that that you will discover that perfect fit here at Tufts.