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Medal for science and inspiring mentorship

webber - ing (Ingressbilde)

The first Medal of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) has been awarded to Professor Patrick Webber.

Webber, who is Professor Emeritus of Plant Biology at Michigan State University, is the first recipient of the medal. He has been recognised for his life-long scientific contribution as well as for the promotion of Arctic research in general through inspiring mentorship and leadership.

Dr. Patrick Webber received the IASC medal.Photo: John Petter Reinertsen, SAMFOTO
Dr. Patrick Webber received the IASC medal.
The medal was presented by the IASC President, David Hik. "He has inspired many young students," said Mr Hik in his introduction.

Along with the medal, Professor Webber also received an unusual present. The botanist's old herbarium box from the 1960s was found during a recent field trip, and colleagues have framed the lid to return to him with the award.

The importance of serendipity

In his plenary talk, Professor Webber highlighted the role of mentors and the importance of the chance encounters of life.

He talked about the influence of his father, who was a school teacher and an avid naturalist, and who was to be his first mentor. His quest to become a polar scientist began at the age of eleven after he saw a movie about polar exploration.

"I was bitten by the polar bug," Professor Webber recalled.

His choice of PhD topic was also in part determined by coincidence, as he stepped in for another botanist on a field trip to Baffin Island in northern Canada. "A lot of this is serendipity," he said, referring to a term introduced by Horace Walpole in the 18th century.

Good mentors are important

Professor Webber struck an optimistic note when addressing the young scientists in the audience. "In spite of the dire predictions these days, I remain optimistic. We have such fine scholars. You young scientists can leave a legacy," he stated. He also addressed the more established scientists.

"Your mentoring will be appreciated. We do not know who our mentors are until we look back. And often mentors are not aware that they are being mentors, they are just being themselves," he pointed out.

His final message was to the young scientists: "May you have excellent mentors. You have unprecedented opportunities. Life is full of surprises - may some of them be serendipitous," concluded Professor Webber.

Last updated: 10.06.2010