2009 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony

Saturday, May 9, 2009 at 10 a.m.
Dean E. Smith Center

The UNC Graduate School held the 2009 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9 in the Dean E. Smith Center. Each graduate came to the stage to receive their academic graduation hood conferred by their advisors or dissertation committee chairs and the Provost. An estimated 200 graduates attended. This number includes students who earned their Ph.D.s in the past academic year.

Video of the Hooding Ceremony

Hooding Ceremony Speaker

The 2009 Hooding Ceremony speaker was Dr. Adron Harris.

Dr. Harris delivered the following address Saturday, May 9 during the 2009 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Adron Harris at the 2009 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony

It is a real pleasure to give this lecture at an Institution that I value so much and to a group of such prominence and potential. I came to Chapel Hill and fell in love with the town, the University, the discipline of pharmacology, and I even fell in love with my advisor’s secretary, who is to this day my wife and best friend. UNC allowed me to think about how drugs affect the brain, a field which to which I could joyfully devote the rest of my life.

Your doctorate degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill will open many doors for your future, you undoubtedly appreciate the excellence of your education now, but you will appreciate it even more in the years ahead. Even now, I call upon colleagues that I first met when I was a graduate student at UNC for advice and assistance. As you develop your careers, many of your friends from UNC will also become successful and the ‘tarheel network’ that you develop will provide support and enjoyment regardless of where you live or work.

And speaking of working, you are likely concerned with the financial turmoil that surrounds us all. This reminds me of how I came to attend the Pharmacology doctoral program at UNC. I had planned to be an industrial chemist and was completing a masters of science in chemistry and applying for jobs with chemical companies. As I interviewed with the companies, one by one they replied that because of the recession, they were closing the positions that they had advertised and would not be hiring any chemists. I guess I wasn’t paying much attention to the economy and was surprised that there was a recession in progress. One reason for my distraction is that I was more concerned about being drafted for military service in Vietnam, than unemployment. At any rate, I have always been thankful that UNC took a chance on an unemployable chemist and admitted me to a graduate program. Your situation is somewhat different as you must decide how to use your degree in an uncertain job market. This may not be easy, but I see two promising aspects. First, you have received excellent and prestigious training at UNC-Chapel Hill. Second, I see a shift in priorities in which excessive materialism will be valued less and scholarship will be valued more. Such a shift will not only benefit scholars such as you, but society as a whole.

You probably expect to hear, maybe even hope to hear, about something that I learned after getting my doctorate degree. You may already appreciate that the Ph.D. is the beginning, not the end, of your education, and that is one thing I am reminded of daily. I have come to appreciate the cliché that the only constant is change and that we must continually reinvent ourselves. Perhaps because the world changed so slowly when our species was evolving, we expect constants in life; we expect the past to predict the future. We expect constancy despite daily evidence that this is emphatically not the case!

One vivid memory of my time at Chapel Hill and an example of disruptive change, is the way we did rather simple calculations for our laboratory results. First, we sat at a typewriter-like machine to punch holes in paper cards or a scientific instrument produced a paper tape with punch holes to record the data. Next, we took this punched paper to a building on campus where one floor was devoted to a computer that consumed the cards and did some rather simple calculations. This was an entire floor of a building with a lot of people working there, but the computing power was far, far less than your iphones. We thought it essential for our future work to learn how to punch cards and write simple programs and did not anticipate how completely this entire computer industry would be transformed. Remarkably, the disruption began with two teenagers tinkering in a garage in Los Altos, California. Steve Jobs and Steve Wosniak were too young to care about the abundant advice from their elders that there was no need for a personal computer. And a few years later a student at the University of Texas in Austin began building low cost computers in his dorm room and selling them directly to other students. His parents were very unhappy about this distraction from his pre-med studies, but Michael Dell followed his passion and revolutionized the computer industry. These vignettes show the chaos of change — a few unlikely people produce completely unexpected events that challenge us to change our daily lives. You must be prepared to discard your old biases and accept unlikely, even uncomfortable, new opportunities. Fortunately, the required skills, such as adapting to the unexpected and turning disappointment into success, were probably an abundant part of your doctoral training.

I have also learned that a job is fine, but a career is very special. I have been fortunate that I have never had what I consider a job, but have always been amazed that I have been paid to do something that is as much fun as science.

You must remember that the privilege of the doctorate degree also carries a responsibility. We are beginning to appreciate the serious challenges facing our global society and these will only become more critical during your lifetimes. Now is the time to think about how you can provide benefit to others, how you can help to solve problems and provide leadership in changing our world. At the least, you can act by personal example, but given the imagination, skills and brilliance present in this group, I expect you to be leaders for change. You can promote scholarship in your communities, you can influence state and national policies if you extend you discipline and comfort zone to new areas. From local to global, society needs your help!

Your education at UNC has given you many skills and will open many doors for you future. I hope you will enjoy the journey to your dreams even more than I have enjoyed mine.

Adron Harris received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1973, and conducted his postdoctoral work at the University of California at San Francisco.

Dr. Harris has received numerous awards for his research on alcoholism, including the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association Foundation Faculty Development Award, Veterans Administration Alcoholism Research Award and a Distinguished Research Award in 1999. Dr. Harris served as president of the Research Society on Alcoholism from 1993-1995 and is the immediate Past President of the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. He served as the Scientific Director of Alcoholism Research Center at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine from 1992-1998.

In 1998 Dr. Harris moved to the University of Texas in Austin where he holds the M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Chair in Molecular Biology and is the director of the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research.

Dr. Harris’ research is focused on the molecular sties of alcohol action in brain and the molecular changes on brain that are responsible for alcohol dependence. Based on citation analyses, his research publications are ranked in the top 1% in the fields of Neuroscience & Behavior, Clinical Medicine, Biology & Biochemistry, and Pharmacology & Toxicology.

Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring

Carolyn Halpern receives Faculty Award for Doctoral MentoringThe 2009 Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring was presented to Dr. Carolyn Halpern. The following are the comments made by Graduate School Dean Steve Matson when presenting the award.

A special bond is formed between students and faculty at the graduate level. A big part of our graduate’s success, I’m sure they’d agree, is due to their faculty mentors. The faculty at Carolina takes their role as mentors very seriously and it is this mentoring role that makes today’s ceremony so special.

To honor this extraordinary commitment by faculty, the Graduate School has established an annual Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring.

In our fourth year of this award, we are so very pleased with the number of nominations from doctoral students who felt their faculty mentors deserved this honor. Reading the nominations was an affirmation of the dedication of our faculty to graduate education. There is no way I can adequately express my appreciation to the faculty who mentor our graduate students. So I will simply say thank you for all you do for graduate education on this campus.

Clearly, selecting a final recipient for the award was difficult. The winner of this year’s Award is Dr. Carolyn Halpern, Associate Professor of Maternal and Child Health in the School of Public Health. As Dr. Halpern makes her way to the stage, I want to share with you why she was selected for this award. Dr. Halpern was nominated by a single student with 13 supporting student signatures, data, and comments. All of her mentored students have successfully completed their degrees and have gone on to successful academic, government, and non-profit research careers. Each of her students can boast an impressive track record of publications, funded grants, and national presentations. Underlying Professor Halpern’s skill as an academic mentor is her genuine interest in her students and concern for their wellbeing, both professionally and personally. Professor Halpern provides the perfect balance of guidance, support, trust, and independence to develop her students as skilled researchers.

In addition, not only do Professor Halpern’s direct advisees benefit from her influence and mentorship, but so do all doctoral students in the department. Through her teachings in one of their core courses, she skillfully guides students as they focus their own research questions and develop full proposals. As a result of course structure and Professor Halpern’s gentle but confident model of scholarly inquiry, students learn to think critically, provide constructive feedback, and incorporate the critique of others into their work — all necessary skills that ensure they will be successful throughout their graduate career and into their professional and academic careers.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Carolyn Halpern on receiving the 2009 Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring.

Dr. Halpern with students