Catching Up With Hegarty Award Winning Scientist Bob Peabody
september 17 , 2008

Prof. Bob Peabody
Professor Bob Peabody

Believe it or not- there was once a time when biology professor Bob Peabody wasn't thinking about mushrooms. Back in 1981, three years into his teaching career at Stonehill, his research efforts focused on salamanders. It wasn't until Peabody's wife, Diane, then a member of the Bridgewater State College faculty, needed help on a last-second presentation she was asked to make in Australia that he joined in on the project.

Since then, he has never stopped thinking about honey mushrooms and their unusual genetic variations. He has never stopped thinking about his students either. For the last 29 years, Peabody has had a tremendous influence on a long and growing list of Stonehill science majors, all of whom have benefited from his mentorship.

Peabody began what will be his final year of teaching on a high note when he received the Hegarty Award for Excellence in Teaching at the 13th annual Academic Convocation at the end of August. "When you go into teaching and you've been doing it for a while, it's really nice to know that there are students and fellow teachers that think you are doing a good job and succeeding. It is a really great feeling," said Peabody.

Simply seeing "the light bulb turn on" in his students' heads is what Peabody will tell you is the best part about being a teacher. "Sometimes what's even more exciting to see is when one student starts teaching other students. A student will describe in class what triggered his or her own understanding of something and then the rest of the class will begin to catch on," said Peabody.

Some of his students have even caught onto "mushroom fever," working with the Peabodys and other faculty members over the summers through the SURE Program, Stonehill's Undergraduate Research Experience. Working with the students and other professors has proven to be a rewarding experience for Peabody- admitting that the light bulb has often turned on in his head through the collaborative effects of great teamwork.

"We had something very unusual happen this past summer in SURE. During our last few days of research, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of what the result of an experiment we did was going to be, but it turned out the complete opposite happened. We all put our heads together and were able to hypothesize why we got the result we did so it was a learning experience for not only the students but me and the other faculty as well," said Peabody.

Peabody believes one of the best things about conducting research at the College is the fact he has been able to quietly go about it without an enormous amount of pressure.

"Stonehill provides a very good balance between conducting research and teaching," said Peabody, who remembers Fr. Robert Kruse, C.S.C., who was the Academic Dean of Stonehill from 1978-1987, buying the Peabodys a special piece of equipment they needed for their research when they themselves couldn't afford to buy it. "He was always very encouraging and supportive when it came to doing research," notes Peabody.

The opening of the new Science Center will make conducting research much more feasible according to Peabody, not only for teachers but students as well. "More and more students are coming to us wanting to participate in the SURE program and do their own research but with our space constraints it has been difficult to support these growing numbers," said Peabody.

The new Science Center will house rooms specifically for collaborative student/faculty research. The Center will also be complete with separate lecture rooms and laboratories, which will be a crucial ingredient to the success and growth of the science and psychology programs.

"We will have so much more flexibility now because we won't have to break down our research every time a class needs that space. Right now we must schedule separate times and even separate buildings for lectures and labs," said Peabody. "With the new Science Center, we will be able to switch back and forth between lecture and lab in one room and leave our research set-up in another room."

Though retiring from teaching after this year, Peabody and his wife will reap the benefits of the new facility as they will focus full-time on their research next year. It will be bittersweet for Peabody as he will greatly miss teaching but working on his research in the new Science Center will be a special opportunity.

"I remember on the last day of my very first class at Stonehill saying I was going to miss that group of students so the last day of my very last class is going to be tough because it'll be forever," said Peabody. "I will still be around and participating in things but nothing can compare to being in the classroom."

The Peabodys also hope to get in some much-needed relaxation and vacation time. "Our daughter once said to us we need to begin doing some of the things we've wanted to do for some time because life doesn't last forever."

One thing is certain though; you will see the Peabodys out in the woods at Stonehill and near their home every October for years to come, picking mushrooms for testing just as they have been for the last three decades.

For more information contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.

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