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Vast Resources: Jeremy Atkinson's Idea Evolves

February 25, 2008

Professor of Psychology Gordon Gallup Jr. and Jeremy Atkinson

From left, Professor of Psychology Gordon Gallup Jr. and Jeremy Atkinson, the UAlbany graduate student in biopsychology who marshaled the resources of the University to produce its inaugural celebration of Darwin Day. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

When a student has a good idea, the University at Albany listens. Ask grad student Jeremy Atkinson, who harnessed UAlbany's resources to organize "Darwin Day," in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution.

"Darwin Day is not just about esoteric talks, but about getting everyone excited and educated about evolution," said Atkinson, a native of Canada and second-year doctoral student in biopsychology.

He brought his idea for the celebration to Professor of Psychology Gordon Gallup Jr., who was on board right away.

"Darwin Day is a way of celebrating and commemorating Charles Darwin's birthday and his enormous impact on modern science," said Gallup, who believes the celebration will become an annual February event.

Atkinson learned that at the heart of the University, "you do find hidden gems, people who go that extra mile to help out."
  
To pull his plan together, Atkinson drew on the resources of the University, including his classmates. Graduate student Nate Pipitone researched and wrote a successful University Auxiliary Services (UAS) grant proposal, which funded the day's activities, and invited students from other schools; student Brian Quinn formed a Darwin Club to enlist the help of other undergraduates. Atkinson's thesis adviser gained support for the proposal from the chairs of the departments of anthropology and psychology.

Several UAlbany faculty pitched in on the program, giving talks, including Gallup, David Strait of the Department of Anthropology, and Mary Gonder of the Department of Biological Sciences. In addition, UAlbany alumnus Josh Drew '00, a biologist at Boston University, offered a presentation on Biogeography, Evolution and Conservation of Melanesian Coral Reef Fish. Atkinson invited a colleague and friend, Cornell University lecturer in neurobiology and behavior Pat Barclay, to give the keynote address, Survival of the Generous: Game Theory and the Evolution of Human Altruism.

As important as the success of the celebration was the way it happened, Atkinson said. He learned that at the heart of the University, "you do find hidden gems, people who go that extra mile to help out."

Related Links:
Department of Psychology
University Auxiliary Services
Department of Anthropology
Department of Biological Sciences

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