The Sciences at Rhodes – Past, Present and Future
A profile of former biology majors, current students and department head
(For the full texts, please click this link)
Chair, Rhodes Department of Biology
Rhodes students today are constantly challenged, and they constantly rise to that challenge. This, says Gary Lindquester, Biology Department chair, is one of the reasons that teaching at Rhodes is so rewarding.
“It happens in the classroom with rigorous course material and complex ideas, it’s in the teaching laboratory where we develop exercises that train them in the scientific method and in various techniques … and it carries over into the research laboratories for students who work there,” he says. “The students are highly competent, they are interested and they have a good work ethic.”
Anahita Rahimi-Saber ’13
Anahita Rahimi-Saber was born and raised in Denmark and moved with her family to the United States, and Memphis, in 2000. She attended Lausanne Collegiate School and considered other colleges when the time came to make that important decision.
“I thought I wanted to study outside of Memphis, that I knew it too well and had outgrown it by the age of 18,” she says. “But when it came down to what I wanted to study, and finances and everything, Rhodes just made the most sense. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I realized how important it is to have a family close by, and when I moved to campus it was kind of eye-opening and refreshing to learn how great Memphis really is and how much it has to offer.”
Veronica Lawson Gunn ’91, M.D.
Vice President of Population Health Management,
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
“I felt smarter when I stepped on campus,” Veronica Gunn says as she reminisces about her first visit to Rhodes. Though laughing, she insists there is some truth to that. “My visit at Rhodes was what undoubtedly convinced me that that is where I needed to go, and not to any other place.”
Not only did the aesthetics of the campus and the academic curriculum draw her in, but the professors—including Alan and Carolyn Jaslow in Biology, with whom she remains friends—“are examples of the faculty’s commitment to students, their full development and their full potential.”
Brian Wamhoff ’96
Vice President of Research & Development,
Co-Founder, HemoShear, LLC
Associate Professor of Medicine & Biomedical Engineering,
University of Virginia
Brian Wamhoff points to the atmosphere, the opportunity to play soccer and chiefly to members of the faculty such as Jay Blundon and Dee Birnbaum when asked what led to his interest in Rhodes College. It was these professors’ respective departments—Biology and Business—that would build the foundation for his life’s work.
Having attended the University of Missouri-Columbia for graduate school before the University of Virginia for his fellowship, Wamhoff recently took a path of entrepreneurship and biotech, while balancing life as an academic professor.
A profile of former physics majors, current students and department head
(For the full texts, please click this link)
Lars Monia ’15
After only one year at Rhodes, Lars Monia was given the keys to the moonbuggy, so to speak. The Great Moonbuggy Race is a NASA project for high school and college students who build simulated lunar rovers. It’s a challenge, says NASA, “to inspire them in Engineering and explore Engineering opportunities and possibilities.”
Monia was asked to recruit other students, put together a team to manage, and was given a prospective budget by Physics chair Brent Hoffmeister.
“Hosting a team for the first time was pretty challenging,” says Monia. “I had to teach everyone how to do the engineering programs and how the design process works and what the project even was—what in the world is a moonbuggy?”
Charles Robertson Jr. ’65
For Charles Robertson, a Rhodes education began not when he walked on campus for the first time as a freshman, but when his parents did as students. Thanks to Charles William Robertson Sr. ’29 and Lola Ellis Robertson ’33 being scientists themselves, Charles Jr. may have been looking at a preordained career.
“I had some interest in Engineering, but by the end of my senior year in high school I was pretty much hooked on Physics,” Robertson says. “My father, though a biologist, had a significant interest in the physical sciences and encouraged my interest in Physics.”
Harry Swinney ’61
Sid Richardson Foundation Regents Chair
The University of Texas at Austin
Harry Swinney heard about Rhodes College—then Southwestern—from several people, including the family doctor, James Gladney ’38, in his Presbyterian church in Homer, LA.
“I asked my parents if I could visit Southwestern and they drove me there for a two-day visit in the spring of 1955,” Swinney recalls.
He never considered any other option and enrolled with plans to obtain two bachelor’s degrees in five years in the 3-2 plan, with three years at Rhodes followed by two at Georgia Tech. In his freshman year, however, he took a Physics class from professor Jack Taylor ’44 and “became excited about the subject.” It was a class that would turn his plans, and life, around. In honor of Taylor, Swinney in 2000 established the Jack H. Taylor Scholarship at Rhodes for students majoring in the physical and biological sciences.
Chair, Department of Physics
Research teams in Geneva, Switzerland, recently provided proof of the elusive Higgs Boson particle, making the kind of news that gets physicists, and future physicists, excited. Closer to home, Rhodes Physics professor and department chair Brent Hoffmeister is excited about newer courses being offered, including Nuclear Physics, Engineering Physics, Medical Physics, and Fluid Dynamics. This semester, a course on Accelerator Physics, the sort of science that gave the world the Higgs Boson, is being offered for the first time.
Passing along his passion for the sciences is paramount in Hoffmeister’s teaching. “Personally, I like how teaching and scientific research have fused together to become the same sort of thing for me at Rhodes,” he says. “I really enjoy involving students in my research, and I think it is an important experience for the students too. A great way to learn about science is to function as a scientist.”