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Allison Hall ’10 was on campus this spring to discuss her research, but generally you’ll find the former biology major working on her Ph.D. in molecular biology at Princeton, where she focuses on basic genetics in yeast. “Basic” genetics are probably pretty complex to most—her research entails cell fusion and cell-wall degradation signaling—but Hall’s time at Dickinson prepared her well to take on such research.
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education prepared you for your doctoral work?
I spent a good deal of my time at Dickinson working on student-faculty research, which was truly one of the most useful aspects of my education. I had the opportunity to learn how to design and conduct experiments, and I had a wonderful time doing that research. It was the combination of my great science courses and my own research that drove me to pursue a Ph.D.
How did you get interested in your postgrad work, and what about it excites you most?
I initially became interested in pursuing a degree in molecular biology after taking Professor Mike Roberts’ class, Biology of Cancer. So, after I graduated from Dickinson, I spent two years working at Georgetown University, where I gained molecular biology research experience. Working on a Ph.D. can be a trying experience, but it is also a lot of fun. You have the freedom to explore scientific ideas that others have not yet explored.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Graduate school can be tough—science fails a lot, and you have to get used to that. I learned some of that during my undergraduate research, but it’s a little more daunting when you do it all day, every day. The best part about it, however, is that while there are struggles along the way, what you’re doing is novel and interesting, and staying in an academic environment is really fun. Everyone around you wants to continue learning, and it’s a really exciting place to be.
What do you see for yourself after graduate school?
I would love to teach at a school like Dickinson. I want to continue research but also have teaching be a large part of my career.
How do you stay involved with Dickinson?
I was recently given the opportunity to come back and speak about my current research, which was an incredibly exciting experience. It is so fun to see how the biology department and the college as a whole has changed and grown since I’ve graduated. I try to stay updated with the goings-on of Dickinson, and I’ll be attending my five-year reunion this summer. My Dickinson experience was a huge part of why I am where I am today, and I want to stay involved in and help an institution that had such a big and positive impact on my life.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I think it would be Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite books, and I think she would be a really interesting person to talk to.
You just built a time machine: Where and when do you go?
Probably the 1960s and specifically 1964: I’d go to the first Beatles concert in the U.S.
Published May 27, 2015