The Exact Same Desk

 

 

Mentors
Assistant Professor Kevin Rice '96, right, followed his mentor, Professor Emeritus Brad Mundy, into the Chemistry Department.
Photo by Jason McKibben

As a chemistry major and undergraduate researcher, Kevin Rice ’96 expected to go to graduate school, then maybe on to private industry. He didn’t picture himself following in the footsteps of his mentor, Professor Brad Mundy. “And here I am, teaching, on the other side of the desk,” Rice said. “The exact same desk.”

Rice’s former professors are now his colleagues at Colby; he is back in the lab, this time leading student researchers. Mundy, Miselis Professor of Chemistry, emeritus, is Rice’s teaching inspiration. “I model a lot of what I do in his style,” Rice said.

That style, prevalent throughout the sciences at Colby, revolves around students doing research to answer real-world questions. “I looked at them as research colleagues,” Mundy said. “I was Brad to them, not their big boss.”

That experience helped propel Mundy’s students to prestigious medical schools and doctoral programs. (He keeps track of them in a database, showing their graduate and medical degrees from Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, and the program where Mundy taught before he came to Colby, Montana State.) Now Rice, who returned to Colby in 2005 after earning his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale, keeps his own database on alums.

The mentee has become the mentor.

“One of the things that’s been surprising to me as a professor has been how emotionally attached I become to my students,” Rice said. “It’s almost in a way like they’re my kids.”

Channeling Mundy, he reeled off some of their accomplishments. An alumna doing cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A former student, the first in his family to go to college, doing graduate work at Wisconsin: “I would love to be his colleague someday,” Rice said. “I look forward to that.”

In fact, Rice can’t wait.

“I have every expectation that they’re going to do amazing things,” he said. “Part of me would like to fast-forward ten years and see what they’ve accomplished.”

 
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