Professor Shepard shares the joy of discovery, importance of trust in communication, and mentorship.
On Thursday, October 25, The Red House was delighted to host Blythe Shepard, Assistant Professor in the department of Human Sciences, at the third Red House Dinner Series event of the semester.
For Professor Shepard, research was something of an unintended profession, a freshman-year job that developed into a lifelong passion. From her undergraduate years at Boston College studying education and biology, to her work as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, to her leadership in her own Georgetown lab, Professor Shepard’s love of research boiled down to two things: the joy of discovering something new, and the ability to do so alongside students just starting out on their own paths.
Throughout the night, our conversation turned again and again to the themes of mentorship and discovery. With regard to mentorship, Professor Shepard emphasized that it is the informal interactions between students and their professors that enable the relationships that best support students and help them realize the extent of their capabilities. The presence of students from her lab at Thursday’s dinner demonstrated that this belief is a guiding principle in the environment Professor Shepard seeks to create in her lab. They spoke about the fun and engaging space she cultivated through yearly events like Easter Egg Hunts around the lab, as well as her own persistent availability to her students.
Another main theme of the night was communication, specifically with regard to the implications that science has in all aspects of life, ranging from our daily Georgetown routines to the halls of Congress. Professor Shepard’s main pieces of advice: trust and creativity. Mutual trust in the respective areas of expertise of scientists and lawmakers was the keystone of ensuring that scientific discovery can flourish as well as be most meaningfully and effectively incorporated. In terms of making scientific findings more accessible to the general public, Professor Shepard opened up the challenge of making science more visible on campus to students. The arts, students publications, and the talents of students in non-scientific fields are just a few of the non-traditional avenues for bridging the gap between science findings and the implications of them on everyday life.
Perhaps Dr. Shepard’s most salient reminder of the night was of the importance of taking it slow, recognizing the importance of the process, and not letting the final product obfuscate the meaning of the hard work and setbacks that led there. That can mean anything from embracing unexpected research hiccups to simply recognizing that people’s paths are never as linear as they may seem. Like the road towards scientific discovery, life itself can be a windy, unexpected and frustrating process – but one that is well-worth the ultimate reward of finding the thing that brings us joy.
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The next Red House Dinner Series will feature NHS Professor Blythe Shepard on Thursday, October 25th. Students can join the Red House Student Network listserv here to be the first to receive information about signups and stay up to date about all upcoming Red House events. You can also visit our Facebook page for event updates from the Red House.
If you are a faculty member who would like to share your work or join our conversations around contemporary issues in higher education, please email the Red House at firstname.lastname@example.org.