Professor of the Week: Barbara Taylor
Department: Institute of Arctic Biology
Years at UAF: 7
Why did you come to Alaska?
My husband and I came together. If you’re an academic couple, especially an academic couple whose research areas overlap, you either go to a big center, or you go way out in the hinterland where they are inclined to hire couples because couples are more likely to stay.
When did you come up to Alaska?
What do you like best about Alaska?
I don’t know if it’s about Alaska, I mean, it’s about Fairbanks. What I really like about Fairbanks is that it’s got kind of a small town camaraderie to it, but it’s not so small of a town that you don’t have some of the amenities.
What do you do here at UAF?
Well, I do three things in general: I teach, I do research, and I do services for my profession, my university and my community. I have a 50:50 appointment. Fifty percent of my effort goes to research and 50 percent to teaching, and there’s overlap between teaching and research. So, where there’s overlap that creates the little percentage I have for service.
What’s your favorite class to teach?
Biochemistry. More specifically, Biology 303.
Because it’s just the nuts and bolts, you know? I just think, “Okay, every cell everywhere. This is how it goes; now how does it work?” And, I like to know how things work. I figure, if you dissect it down to its smallest part and see how that works, then that’s where you start. But, I love it. It’s fun.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I hope I come across as knowledgeable and enthusiastic. And I hope that I can arouse interest and curiosity in the subject. That’s critical. I think I can be a bit of a ham, because some of my jokes fall flat. But I think it’s important to try and be a little bit entertaining.
What’s one thing you feel defines you?
Metamorphosis! Always changing. My PhD is in marine biology and I’m a neuroscientist now. I don’t have a five-year plan for myself. I fly by the seat of my pants. Serendipity. A lot of where I am is by serendipity.
Do you have any hobbies?
I have little relaxation hobbies. I love to knit. I find that really relaxing. But you can’t call that a hobby. That’s just something you do so you don’t feel guilty having the TV on.
I have four children. So I don’t have much time for what I would like to answer: “I’m a mountain climber, and I’ve bagged seventeen peaks this season!”
Do you have any plans this summer?
Summer is a busy research time for me. I load up my lab with undergraduates and we do lots of research. It’s a chance for me to get in to the lab, although if any of my students were here they would say, “We never see you in the lab! And whenever we see you coming we hide all the stuff!”
How do you relax after a tough week?
I throw myself into something else. We have four kids, [ages] 14 to three. And when I go home, it’s a whole new set of things to get worried about. All I can do is take a deep breath and say, “I’m going to show up and I just hope God gives me the strength to try.” I live a kind of crazy life and I’m not very good at unwinding. Although, I try to laugh a lot, and my kids crack me up.