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With the support of my mother Susan and my father Robert, I was involved in numerous sports growing up both formally and informally. At Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park I played American football, baseball and wrestling. In addition to sports, I enjoyed playing various role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (and many we made up) with a good group of guys who deserve an internet shout out: Dave Connell, Mark Stevenson, Tony Riley as well as my brothers Randy and Bob.
I received a partial scholarship to study mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign. Unfortunately, engineering and me did not get along and I switched my sophomore year to Biology. Eventually, I majored in Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution where I received my B.S. in 1990. I enjoyed my time at Illinois and became heavily involved in several student environmental groups especially the Rainforest Action Group. I was also part of Students for Environmental Concerns, a group co-founded by my late friend Andy Cohen.
I went on to study evolutionary genetics at the University of Maryland - College Park where I received my Ph.D. in 1996 with Professor Wolfgang Stephan. I am proud of my work as a bench scientist on the population genetics of Drosophila and many of my publications are still cited by those in the field. I met my wife Laura while living in Takoma Park, Maryland when she became the legendary "girl next door." At the time she was finishing her MA in American Studies at the university.
I spent five years as an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at American University in Washington, DC where I taught genetics and molecular biology. During my time at AU I organized a "Film and Biology" night that fueled my interest in issues relating to the relationship between fictional representation of science and attitudes towards science in American culture. In 2001 I left bench science to pursue these interests and I undertook a Postdoctoral Retraining Fellowship, supported by the National Science Foundation, in Cornell University's Department of Science and Technology Studies and Department of Communication. After two years at Cornell, I spent a year as a postdoc at Duke University in the Center for Teaching, Learning and writing which provided an excellent transition for a scientist into teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences.