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CLASS OF '12: Outstanding Grad Heads to the Land of OZ

Published: Friday, May 4, 2012

Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2012 18:05

Class of '12, Adrianne Cease

Tiera Allen

Adrianne Cease

Your fellow classmates and college students – you’ve seen ‘em every day for the last three, four, maybe five years. Maybe you’ve never talked to that girl who has been in, like, every class since freshman year. Maybe you changed your major every semester and have a transcript that reads like a course selection catalog. Maybe you never thought you’d get to play competitive sports before coming to ASU and joining a collegiate Quidditch team. Whatever your story and college experience – the good, bad and ugly of the post-secondary student’s life – this is just the next step to awesome decades ahead.


But graduation allows for a little time of reflection before the next step. And who better to hear from than your fellow graduates, from PhD candidates who came to ASU after a stint in the Peace Corps, to first-generation students and undergrads who served their country overseas and those who are participating in the University’s inaugural Lavender Convocation for LGTBQ students. Here are the faces of spring’s graduating class of 2012.


Arianne Cease,

PhD, Biology

Age: 29



How’d you end up at ASU?

I was initially attracted to ASU to work with Dr. Jon Harrison – an insect physiologist.


First impression after day one:

Hot. I arrived in June of 2007 and immediately started looking for a boating sport to keep cool and still be outside. My first day on campus, fortuitously, I met Peggy Coulombe who is now the Director of Academic Media for CLAS. She mentioned she was also a coach for a Polynesian outrigger canoe team and suggested I attend a practice. The next day, I was in a canoe. After one practice, I was hooked.


Most challenging part of the college experience:

Persevering. The year I started, my grad student mentor (Sydella Blatch, PhD, 2008) frequently reminded me that getting a PhD was a marathon, not a sprint. There were times to work 16 hour days on end to meet grant deadlines or when I was doing fieldwork and an experiment had to be done. There were also times to take off and do something unrelated. In grad school the work is never done. There are always things you can and should be working on and the trick is to figure out how to juggle everything and still keep time for you. It was important for me to realize that there would be times — sometimes months — that would be a horrendous struggle. These would be for various reasons. Sometimes my experiments failed or we got bizarre results. Other times, I struggled to see how I would fit my graduate career into a bigger picture or was dismayed by the job market. Many times, I was just exhausted. Persevering through those times, continuing to work away bit by bit was the most challenging part of the graduate student experience for me.


What got you through it:

Being a part of the competitive outrigger canoe team, Na Leo O’ Ke Kai, was a huge component to my success and happiness as a grad student. No matter what was happening in academia, or any other part of my life, several times a week I could hop on my bike, grab my paddle, and cycle over the bridge to practice on Tempe Town Lake. […] It was a completely different type of challenge than grad school and allowed me to focus my energy and any frustration in a positive manner to move the boat forward. It also gave me a completely different set of friends outside of the university. Everyone having unique and fascinating paths that kept me grounded outside of academia. […] Within academia, I sought out mentors and good friends I could go to for a range of advice, and to grab a beer with from time to time. […] I also had the incredible support of my parents, Bill and Susan Cease. From an early age, they truly made me believe that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough for it.


Advice you wish you had as a freshman:

It is your education and, more importantly, it is your career. This is not a dress rehearsal. You must be an advocate for yourself. Ask a lot of questions. Be confident in what you know and don’t be afraid to ask questions when things are unclear. When I meet with my advisors now, or discuss research with someone outside of my field, I often stop them to say, “I don’t know what that means.” They explain it to me and then we continue on with (mostly) full understanding. Work hard and learn as much as you can, but get comfortable not knowing everything. It is never going to happen.


Post-grad plans:

I am moving to Sydney, Australia, in June to start a post-doc research position at the University of Sydney with one of the top locust researchers in the world Steve Simpson. […] My long-term goal is to conduct comparative studies also including a closely-related species in Senegal where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer to understand if what we have learned about the north Asian locust can be applied to other locusts and be used to help minimize outbreaks in the Sahel.

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