Blood may be thicker than water but it isn’t always red

Pursuit of a life in science

Sidell Spur
Sidell Spur, in Antarctica, named to honor Bruce Sidell’s many years of Antarctic research. Photo by Kristin O’Brien.

O’Brien went “down to the ice” for research expeditions in Antarctica twice while in graduate school, and has returned as an NSF grantee four times since. On all but the 2011 expedition, Sidell was a major force.

Bruce Sidell died in February 2011, after a lengthy bout with cancer. A remembrance by colleagues and friends noted that “Bruce’s approach to science … not only helped to shape the career approaches of his many graduate students but also served as an exemplar … of how best to pursue a life in science.”

Sitting in her office about a year after Sidell’s death, O’Brien chokes up as she tries to explain how important his influence has been on how she goes about the business of being a scientist. Sidell was so respected by other Antarctic researchers that they gave his name to a geographic feature in the region where he did most of his work. After lengthy discussion they chose an outcropping on the western shore of Brabent Island.

“One of the most memorable moments during the [2011] field season was our visit to Sidell Spur,” O’Brien says. “The day began as a cloudy one, but as we approached and the sun shone through, illuminating the face of the spur, I couldn’t help but think that Bruce was with us at that moment.”

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LJ Evans is a writer and editor for UAF Marketing and Communications.