ISU Magazine

Volume 40 | Number 1 | Fall 2009

ISU Graduate Education Opens Doors for Deborah Alongi

Deborah Alongi

Photo provided by Deborah Alongi

ISU Graduate Education Opens Doors for Deborah Alongi

Fall 2009 Issue | By Andy Taylor

Science, with all its logic and reasoning, can still work in mysterious ways.

Deborah Alongi came to Idaho State University from Arizona in 2001 to pursue a Doctor of Arts degree in biology, intending to advance her career as a creator of instructional materials for a nonprofit educational development company.

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But, on her way to a teaching doctorate, Alongi got sidetracked by an interest in pursuing research. She discovered a new passion that led her to collaborate on some significant research on ferns with ISU professors Jeff Hill and Matt Germino, and helped her land a post-doctoral fellowship at Sheffield University in England in 2008. This fall, Alongi started as a biological sciences faculty member at Castleton State College in Vermont.

“I found after being at ISU awhile that I already knew a lot about teaching. I thought it would be better for me to get a Ph.D. rather than a D.A., so I switched,” Alongi said.

Alongi chose Hill as one of her advisors because he was working on plant genetic research, a topic that interested Alongi. She also took Germino's class on plant resource ecology, conducted a study, presented the results and wrote a research paper.

“Then the next couple of years I ended up redoing and refining the experiments I started in that class, the results of which ended up being the study we wrote about for Botany,” Alongi said.

She was able to finish her Ph.D. in less than six years, slowing only briefly to have her first child while pursuing her studies.

The work she did at Idaho State University, including twice publishing work based on her doctoral dissertation in scientific journals, helped her land the one-year postdoctoral fellowship at Sheffield.

“I found the postdoc while looking at a popular website for evolutionary biologists,” she said. “They were advertising a position of a project very similar to the project I was doing with Matt on the genomics on conifers. He knew that it was a great place and encouraged me to apply for the job. I got an interview and they hired me quickly.”

At Sheffield, Alongi had the opportunity to work with postdoctoral colleagues from all over Europe and all over the world.

“We had nine postdocs in my office, none who were English,” she said. “I got a good perspective on what academics and being a scientist is like in other parts of world.”

She has taken that new perspective, along with her researching creativity and background in biological sciences, to Castleton State College, where she began teaching biology and overseeing an undergraduate research program this fall.