Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Please welcome the newly minted Dr. Brian "Ace" J. Powell. Brian has successfully defended his dissertation work on the cognitive ecology of anoles. He is so happy that at the moment he is doing his signature dance -- check it out--

To celebrate such a momentous occasion, we all dusted off our finest formal wear...

This is a bitter-sweet moment for the Chipojo Lab. I am extremely happy that Brian was able to complete an ambitious dissertation, one that I am positive will be setting the standard for future work on the cognitive ecology of lizards, and cognition in general. To be clear, this is not a "proud" advisor blowing "hot air" about his first graduate student. If you don’t believe me, please check out our previous blog "Chipojo Lab Goes Viral" or take a look at this short promo for the "Mystery of the Animal Minds" hosted by David Suzuki.

I do have to say, we are going to miss Ace a lot. For my part, I have learned “as I’ve went” about what to do and what not to do as an advisor. It is funny that we get a degree and, if lucky, have the opportunity to train graduate students; but no one provides a course on how to be a successful advisor. This is a “learn on the job”, major responsibility. Ace and I have had many hours of discussion on cognitive ecology and neuroanatomy, which have provided significant insights and direction for how we designed and conducted our work.

Outside academic discussions, Ace was the first to teach me that it is important to pack a lunch when you are in the field all day. I used to survive on Pop-tarts and raisins. However, the first time I took Ace to the field, he would pack a gigantic sandwich and his signature can of Dr. Pepper each day. Furthermore, he would always find a great spot in the forest to enjoy lunch. Two concepts that were not part of my daily fieldwork, and which early on, I felt were a waste of time. He also showed me that it is fine (well, maybe) to relax and go back inside when it is raining. That was also a novel concept for me. More generally, Ace has been extremely supportive of my lack of advisor skills. He has never complained when I have asked him to do the same experiment over and over, although we were both convinced that it would not work. Nor has he complained about the fact that I have never said, "this is a great manuscript and is ready to be submitted". As he kindly told me recently "I hope your advisor didn't make as many comments on the manuscripts as you make on the ones I give you." I finally got it, I was going over the top.

Finally, I am going to miss Halloween, I have never seen anyone with such a gifted ability to dress-up. Ace is like a chameleon from "House" the somewhat unpredictable doctor (above picture) to "赤堤ももこ" the self-proclaimed leader of PPGZ (below). No character is beyond his reach.....