I’m Terry McGlynn, Professor of Biology at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Research Associate at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. I’m a tropical biologist, and research in my lab emphasizes experimental natural history of ants. When a mystery of nature grows to be too enticing, we pursue the answers. Some of these questions are: Why do so many species of ants move their nests around? How is it that some ant colonies allow thieves to steal food from them without putting up a fight? How is it that slight changes in light, or in trampling of the ground, can cause huge changes in ant biodiversity? How do strobe ants strobe, and why do they bother?
I live in Pasadena, California, in the foothills below the San Gabriel National Monument. My spouse works for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, working to bring science to the public through museums and other informal education routes. She’s smart, hilarious, insightful and supportive. Her job has more responsibility as my own, with a little less flexibility, and it matches my job in terms of its joys and challenges. Our kid attends a Blair Middle School, one of many superb options in Pasadena Unified School District. Being his dad is great in uncountable ways, and also a challenge to me lead by example.
At CSU Dominguez Hills, we have a few thousand students, nearly all of whom are commuters, and many of whom are taking classes part-time. We’re officially a Minority-Serving and Hispanic-Serving Institution. Many, and perhaps most, of my students are the first in their families to go to college. In the research community, our university is definitely a Small Pond. We have a base teaching load of four full lecture courses per semester. This could also be two lectures and three lab sections, or perhaps six lab sections. Many of us creatively find ways to reassign our time to other activities.
If I’m an evangelist about anything, it’s pressure cooking. Seriously, have you used a pressure cooker? They’re awesome once you learn how, I use it several times per week for rice, beans, risotto, veggies that take a while to cook, all kinds of soups. I could go on and on. If you want pressure cooking tips, drop me a line at email@example.com.
When I have the opportunity to do something not related to work, I sometimes work. After all, ants are mighty cool. I also want to get outdoors as much as possible, travel to places I haven’t been and places I really like, and read what has been called literary fiction. My lab website is leaflitter.org. (If you like the design of the site, you should hire Neil McCoy.) If you really want to know more about me, you could listen to this episode of People Behind the Science.
Most academics have walked along wandering and frequently bifurcating paths. I’d like to think that my particular route has helped me get some insights into how different kinds of universities work.
I was an undergrad at Occidental College, a liberal arts school. After a year of not wandering, I did my PhD work at the University of Colorado in the department formerly known as Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology. I did a brief postdoc at the University of Houston, before taking a visiting position at another liberal arts school, Gettysburg College. I then taught for seven years at the University of San Diego, a private Catholic school with a budget that depends almost entirely on tuition. I’ve been at Dominguez Hills since 2007. Since 1995, I’ve consistently been working out of La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, cumulatively spending a few years there. So, I’ve seen big and small, wealthy and not, urban and rural, diverse and homogeneous.
I work extensively with preparing K-12 science teachers and working with current teachers, in the Los Angeles Unified School District. This work is a source of extraordinary joy and extreme frustration. You can’t work with public education in the US and not be frustrated for the lack of resources, freedom and foresight.