More than 100 faculty, students, and staff from the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (SCRB) gathered recently in the Bauer courtyard to mark the promotion from associate to full professor of HSCI faculty Kevin Eggan, PhD, Konrad Hochedlinger, PhD, and Amy Wagers, PhD. Each has made significant stem-cellrelated discoveries in recent years. All three were co-investigators on HSCI's first Junior Faculty award that studied cellular reprogramming.
In addition to barbecue, music, and a cake decorated with an image of the three, there was a dunk tank — not exactly the thing that comes to mind when you hear "Harvard professor," but entertaining nonetheless. HSCI Co-Directors and SCRB Co-Chairs Douglas Melton, PhD, and David Scadden, MD, presided over the festivities, congratulating the trio on their achievements and welcoming them to the tenured ranks.
In mostly lighthearted (and brief) comments, Scadden talked about some of the quirky features of the job, and shared the results of a Google search for the term "professor." "Surveys, however, don't capture everything," Scadden said. "They don't talk about the deep satisfaction that comes with a job dedicated to creating new knowledge, to mentoring young people, and that makes you part of a community that deeply cares about the world."
Of the three new professors only Eggan braved the dunk tank, climbing onto the seat and daring anyone to try to dump him in the water. A dripping Eggan later said that the tenure decisions of all three coming close together was particularly gratifying, because they all arrived at Harvard at roughly the same time and have worked together and come to know each other well. Eggan said the celebration was part of belonging to a scientific community that has grown since the founding of HSCI in 2004 and of the department in 2007.
"This is something you look forward to your entire professional life," said Eggan, who came to Harvard in 2003 as a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows.
Wagers found out about the tenure decision while in Japan at a stem cell conference. Melton broke the news during a Skype call one morning, and, later that day, Wagers chased the sun home through multiple time zones. "I flew back, so the day I got tenure was the longest day of my life," Wagers said. "I've wanted to be a scientist since I was 10."
Hochedlinger, who came to Harvard from the University of Vienna via MIT, said he was relieved to find out he had survived the review process when Scadden sent him a text message saying, "Congratulations, Professor."