28 Years, 2 PhDs, 1 Embrace
Through the generations, a father and daughter share a passion for science
This is a picture (above, left) of me and Alexandra, just four days after her birth, on the day of my graduation with a PhD in chemistry. On the right is a much more recent photo from when Alexandra received her PhD in molecular biology, cell biology, and biochemistry this past May, twenty-eight years to the day after my graduation. It is with great pride and sincere gratitude that we were both given the opportunity to learn at Brown University. My time at Brown was an anxious endeavor because I had no idea what it would be like and always felt like I did not belong. I was a first generation college student and remaining in school for such a long time was incomprehensible to my family. Looking forward from the past there is a bit of closure knowing that my time there had a purpose beyond my own learning that extended into the future and has enabled us to give to our daughter(s) one of the greatest gifts that can be given: to instill a love of learning and provide an opportunity to obtain an extraordinary education. Alexandra’s graduation provides evidence that an education opens minds and changes lives, generationally. Her accomplishments are the manifestation of the dream of her great grandmother, who so wished to learn and be educated at a time when it was not widely acceptable for women to pursue such endeavors.
—Robert L. D’Ordine ’95 PhD
I had known for a while that the photo from my dad’s graduation (at left) would be in the acknowledgments of my thesis defense presentation as a “full circle” moment. However, it does not capture the full extent to which I really have followed in my dad’s footsteps. For example, we almost by chance ended up both being fascinated by proteins and having biochemistry become an integral part of our respective theses. We discovered how similar our interests were during one of our many science-intensive conversations when I was visiting home and I described some early ideas for my thesis project. I cannot overstate how influential it was to have someone in my family to talk to about the science and the experience of graduate school research. I remember one day when I was going through a tough time with my research, I was organizing my closet and came across an encouraging letter from my dad that he had given to me when I started at Brown. It was exactly what I needed to read that day. It is one thing to have supportive family and friends, whom I am very lucky to have and thankful for, and another to share this specific experience with a parent who can help guide you through the ups and downs of obtaining a PhD. I hope that in the future I can similarly support the next generation of students.
—Alexandra M. D’Ordine ’23 PhD