Thursday, December 17, 2009

Farewell, UMass

Today was my last day at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Actually, last Friday was my “official” last day, but I wanted to tidy up before I left (and make up for the long lunches I took on the few nice days we had over the summer). I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who made life on campus so pleasant during my stay.

The bureaucracy associated with new employment can be a bit overwhelming, but the ladies in the department office made things go very smoothly. Thank you to Linda, Roxanne, Lori, and Carolyn for expediting everything from my very own mailbox to the installation of a phone in the lab, and rectifying a discrepancy in my wage. You are all so friendly, too.

Ironically, I only met the Chief Investigative Officer for my lab, and the co-originator of the project I worked on, once, when I first arrived. Still, I am deeply indebted to Kevin McGarigal for providing me this employment opportunity when I needed it most. Thank you, Kevin.

Scott Jackson, co-founder of the project and my primary administrative contact, went out of his way to be a good friend as well as colleague. Given his position and responsibilities, he never appears stressed out in the least. Thanks, Scott, for setting such a great example.

The last thing Scott did was to take myself and a few others to lunch as a thank you for the work we did in the field and in the lab. Among those so honored were Charley Eiseman, who I introduced in “The Art of Insect Tracking,” and Kasey Rolih, who has been an amazing field leader for several years. She was exceedingly patient with me when she visited the lab, too. Thanks for helping me conquer the formula for converting 95% ethanol to 70%. Kasey’s husband, Brad Compton, is the guru behind the computer modeling and data evaluation for this project, since its inception. He was always willing to help solve my own computer issues, or just pause to chat about fly fishing or tell an amusing story. You never failed to make my day, Brad.

The people I owe the most to are the three women pictured here. From left to right: Jennifer Connolly, Shelley Raymond, and Theresa Portante.

Theresa, a Graduate Research Assistant, was my first and most constant contact. She hired me, helped me to find housing, and put up with me through the “growing pains” that go with any new job. Her organizational and people-management skills are amazing. She never asks anyone to do anything she wouldn’t do herself, and meets every challenge with enthusiasm and a smile. You are going to go far, Theresa, and I am honored to call you a friend and colleague.

Jennifer Connolly was exceptionally busy in the field, but her visits to the lab were always welcome. I wish I had gotten to know you better, Jennifer, but it was always a joy to see you.

Shelley Raymond spent the wet, soggy summer in the field, but I guarantee you she never complained. She spent the bulk of the fall in the lab and I felt very fortunate to have her company there. Shelley is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and toiled away at some very dirty, redundant, and, well, “fragrant” tasks processing samples taken over the summer. She never has a gripe, is always friendly, and has a great wit and sense of humor. She’ll be leaving soon for new digs in Boston and I wish her the very best. Anybody in Boston would be nuts to pass up the chance to hire this woman. If she, Jennifer, and Theresa are examples of young people today, the collective future of our society looks very bright.

I know there are people I’m leaving out. People like Dr. Paige Warren and her grad students Suzanna and Rachel and Noah Charney….and Meagan down the hall who introduced me to her own circle of friends. I could not have asked for a better situation here. Thank you to all, you are friends for life.

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