Interview: In-Her-View

Dr. Kathleen Donohue grew up in New Jersey, but moved to California to attend Stanford. Her family is in the arts field, and she was extremely interested in history and ecology. She loved putting the present in context with the past and was curious about the environment surrounding her, so ecology and evolutionary biology were a natural fit for her. Although Dr. Donohue was fascinated by science, it wasn’t until her undergraduate years that she realized she could express her love for this field thorough research. She completed her B.S., B.A. and M.S., before she went to the University of Chicago for her Ph.D.  


When asked about her experiences with teaching, Dr. Donohue says she loves the job. While she had no formal training, she expressed that she likes working with individuals in small groups and watching them grow. She wants her students to be more aware of the neighbors they are surrounding, and one time she gave a fun quiz to her class that challenged them to match a song to the bird. As much as she loves being a professor, Dr. Donohue also loves learning new things. Her most recent hobby has been glass shaping. Of course, she also loved hiking, biking and exploring the outdoors. Would it be blasphemous if an ecologist didn’t like nature?


I also asked Dr. Donohue about the difference in interdisciplinary collaboration from when she initially started in research to now. To this, she said that biology has always allowed for lots of different fields to collaborate with each other, but she says most of these collaborations have yet cross the bridge between science and humanities. While Dr. Donohue loves the flexibility of biology which allows her to work with various colleagues, she said the hardest challenge she has faced in science is speaking up and voicing her ideas during seminars, group meetings etc. I can relate to her in that aspect, because I also have a hard time asserting my ideas in a group setting.


One of the reasons I find my mentor extremely inspiring is due to her answer/lack of to the question of disasters in the lab. She struggled with an appropriate answer, because she said she doesn’t view anything as a disaster- just natural and another learning experience. Dr. Donohue recalled a field experiment that she spent hours setting up on the beach. Several minutes after the set up, the tide came in and washed away all of her seeds. Although her undergraduates were frustrated, she said just shrugged. She was studying seed dispersal and she just viewed it as nature’s answer to her question. I absolutely love her outlook on life, and can’t wait to spend more time getting to know more about her. 

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