Roberta R. Pollock is a product of research universities. As an undergraduate, she studied biology at Emory University in Atlanta, graduating summa cum laude. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in immunology at Harvard University and did postdoctoral fellowships at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. But since 1989, Pollock has been teaching biology at Occidental College, a liberal arts campus in Los Angeles with about 1,900 students and 135 faculty.
The author of some three dozen papers, Pollock has contin-ued her research in immunology and at last count had authored seven papers since joining Occidental, three of them with undergraduate coauthors. An HHMI grant to Occidental helped the college equip her lab. "My research has progressed much more slowly than it would at a research university," she admits, "but I love teaching undergraduates in small classes, getting to know them, and playing a role in their personal and intellectual growth."
Pollock also likes the accessibility of colleagues from other scientific disciplines, as well as those in the humanities and social sciences. She values the college's willingness to let her work half-time when her children were very young, and its support for innovative ideas. With help from Occidental's HHMI grant, Pollock developed a course on gender and science in which she explores the historical role of women as scientists, the status of women in science today, and whether women and men conduct science differently.
After 15 years, Pollock is sure that she's right where she belongs. "I wanted to combine teaching and research and have them both count toward tenure," she explains. "Occasionally, when I go to a professional meeting, I regret that I am not accomplishing as much in research as I would if I had chosen to be at a research university. But I am helping students decide what they want to do with their lives, and that is so satisfying."
THE BEST JOB EVER
Barely more than half Pollock's age and just finishing his first year on the biology faculty at Austin College in Sherman, Texas, Lance Barton couldn't stay out of the classroom even during his graduate school days at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where the focus was firmly on research.
Barton found time to teach undergraduate biology at Cincinnati's College of Mount St. Joseph and to instruct middle school students in the Saturday Science Academy, an HHMI-supported outreach program at the University of Cincinnati.
As long as he stayed productive in the lab, Barton's mentor, HHMI alumni investig-ator John J. Monaco, Jr., didn't object to the graduate student's teaching activities, but others in his department "didn't think you could do both," Barton recalls. When he won the department's scientific award and an academic achievement award, "I think I changed a lot of attitudes," he says with a smile.
When Barton began looking for a faculty position, the largest school to which he applied had an enrollment of 2,200. He accepted an offer from Austin College, home to 1,300 under-graduates, because he liked the interdisciplinary nature of the faculty and their devotion to their students.
Barton is taken with a required course called "Integrated Science," cotaught by scientists and faculty from other disciplines, and with Austin College's January Term, three weeks between the fall and spring semesters when faculty and students can let their academic imaginations run wild.