Alumni and Careers

Becca Selden

Becca Selden

Class of: 2006

Major(s): Biology

Minor(s): Hispanic Studies

Becca Selden, a Marine ecologist, studies fish populations. But to better understand fish, which are threatened by climate change and harvesting, she also has to understand people. Besides researching the dynamics of ocean ecosystems, she also studies how fishermen in coastal communities are changing along with our changing oceans.


Currently a National Science Foundation post-doctoral research fellow at Rutgers University, Selden’s curiosity about oceans began as a child, when she explored tide pools on family visits to southern California. At age 11, she went snorkeling for the first time and recalls how amazed she was to discover a colorful, mysterious world invisible to those on land. She knew early on she wanted to devote her life to marine biology.

Selden recently returned to Bowdoin—the place where her childhood wonder began the transformation into adult expertise—to give a talk and meet with students interested in marine biology careers. She told students how invaluable it was to her to be able to collaborate with a faculty mentor here—Amy Johnson, Bowdoin’s James R. & Helen Lee Billingsley Professor of Marine Biology. As a junior and senior, Selden received a Beckman Scholarship to support her research with Johnson. They studied whether the scent of crab predators would alter sea urchin morphology and development.

Selden urged students to take advantage of the research opportunities available to them at Bowdoin.

“None of my friends who wanted to do research here were turned away,” she said.
After graduating from college, Selden traveled the world on a Watson Fellowship, studying sea turtle conservation in small communities in South Africa, Malaysia, the Cayman Islands, Australia, and Panama. During this year of travel, her thinking about marine conservation began to shift.

“My generation of scientists is looking at having their work make an impact,” she said. “We have observed in our lifetimes the decline of species, even extinctions. We have a profound appreciation that our actions are influencing ecological systems.” —Becca Selden ’06

She described evolving from an idealistic young girl focused on conservation—and saving animals like leopards at any cost—to a seasoned scientist who is mindful of how important natural resources are to sustaining people throughout the world. “I realized that people can’t just up and stop what they are doing,” she said. “So working with communities to design solutions that are more of a win-win is the way to go. I’ve gone all the way to the other side. I don’t see any marine life as overly sacred. Millions of people rely on seafood for their main source of protein.” Instead, she concluded, she wants to see better, more sustainable management of fisheries.

Selden’s interest in the complexity of sustainability steered her graduate studies. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, Selden looked more deeply into “the ecology of a marine system that was embedded within our socioeconomic system, one that people are dependent on for their livelihood.” There she investigated the effects of smaller-sized California sheephead, whose body sizes have decreased due to overfishing, on sea urchins (which sheephead like to eat) and on kelp forests. Kelp is a critical habitat and food source for many species and disappears when there is an overabundance of sea urchins. “We lose biodiversity when we mess with species in this way,” she said.

In her recent research, Selden has been looking at how fishing and climate change are affecting predator-prey relationships along the Atlantic seaboard. She is also investigating how fishing communities are adapting, or not adapting, to climate change and shifting fish populations.

“In the Northeast, we’ve seen rapidly warming waters and in response, species have shifted farther north,” she said. “One is the American lobster, which has moved its center of distribution 200 kilometers north over the last four decades.”

While that has been good for lobstermen in Maine, it has hurt lobstering communities south of us. “Because it is such a valuable fishery, each boat has a territory and is somewhat aggressive about maintaining that territory,” Selden said. “That makes it difficult for fishermen to move as their fish move.”

Two top fish predators Selden has been focusing on are cod and spiny dogfish, which eat, among other things, lobster and herring. Predators are important to the entire food web, and if they are reduced, it sends shockwaves through the ecosystem, leading to dramatic changes in other species. Cod, a popular cold-water species, has been vastly depleted from fishing. Meanwhile, spiny dogfish prefer warmer waters and are not, at the moment, a preferred fish to eat.

Selden predicts that in a warmer world, cod will not fare well. “The geographic range of cod will decline as water warms and carbon dioxide increases,” she said. Even if we stopped fishing cod entirely to return the depleted cod stocks to their former glory, cod will decline, she added.

However, spiny dogfish could move in and take over the functional role of cod. “From an ecosystem perspective, this is potentially good news, in that the impact on the forage community may be small because there could be compensation from a warm-water predator,” Selden said. “The net ecosystem effect might be neutral.”

Selden said that no matter where she ends up in her career—at a government research center or at a liberal arts college—she wants to be involved in marine resource policy. “My generation of scientists is looking at having their work make an impact,” she said. “We have observed in our lifetimes the decline of species, even extinctions. We have a profound appreciation that our actions are influencing ecological systems.”

This profile is taken from a story by Rebecca Goldfine, October 26, 2016.

Claire Williams

Claire Williams

Class of: 2010

Location: University of Washington

Major(s): Neuroscience

Minor(s): Hispanic Studies

Claire is currently a PhD candidate in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program at the University of Washington, where she studies the patterning and development of the nervous system, using genetic and bioinformatic approaches. After graduating from Bowdoin with a major in neuroscience and a minor in Spanish, Claire spent five months teaching English at a small high school in Chile. She then returned to the lab and worked as a research assistant studying neuronal morphology at Harvard Medical School.

How did your Neuroscience education influence your career trajectory?

I first became interested in neuroscience when I took an introductory neuroscience course my sophomore year at Bowdoin, in particular as I learned about some of the clever early studies used to understand the developmental principles driving the assembly of the brain. The following summer, my advisor at Bowdoin encouraged me to to undertake a supervised research project of my own, and I later was able to present this research at international scientific meetings, getting wide exposure to current neuroscience research. This early experience in academic research led me to continue pursuing new opportunities to explore cutting-edge research in neuroscience, to my current graduate student position and my future interests.

Sasha Cruz

Sasha Cruz

Class of: 2012

Location: San Antonio, TX

Sasha Cruz graduated from Bowdoin in 2012 with a double major in biology and Spanish, and is originally from San Antonio, Texas. Sasha is currently enrolled in the pharmacy program at Texas A&M University and works as a licensed pharmacist alongside physicians in a collaborative practice managing patients with chronic diseases.

More About Sasha

Between Bowdoin and Texas A&M, Sasha worked in a pharmacy to gain experience and to decide whether or not pharmacy was the career for me, and also taught a Kaplan PCAT course. The year she spent gaining pharmacy experience helped solidify her decision to pursue a career in pharmacy. Sasha grew up in an area of Texas where a shortage of health care existed, and she decided to attend Texas A&M because of the school’s mission and strong commitment to helping increase access to health care in the South Texas region. The pharmacy program at Texas A&M has opened many doors for Sasha, including the amazing opportunity to intern at the Mayo Clinic after her second year of pharmacy school.

Sasha says she would not be where she is today if not for Seth Ramus and Bowdoin Health Professions Advising. She is grateful for the office for its information, encouragement, and guidance before, during, and after the pharmacy school application process.

Mollie Friedlander

Mollie Friedlander

Class of: 2014

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Mollie Friedlander is a graduate of the class of 2014 from Del Mar, CA. She is currently enrolled in Stanford Medical School. At Bowdoin, Mollie doubled majored in Hispanic studies and neuroscience. While studying abroad in Argentina, Mollie sought physician shadowing opportunities, began the AMCAS medical school application process, and looked for future opportunities to explore Hispanic culture alongside clinical medicine. With the "mammoth support of Bowdoin mentors, a large amount of effort towards applications and interviews, and some amount of luck," Mollie received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant, acceptance to three MD/PhD programs, and an offer to join the Stanford MD program.

More About Mollie

Mollie decided to attend Stanford Medical School, but deferred enrollment for one year to serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Madrid, Spain, so that she could pursue her interest in Spanish language and culture and gain exposure to a universal healthcare system. The Fulbright experience strengthened her desire to integrate Spanish and medicine while also fostering an appreciation for the power of international collaboration. In medical school, Mollie has taken multiple Medical Spanish elective courses and utilized Spanish language skills to communicate with Hispanic patients at Stanford free clinics. Mollie investigated pancreas development in Dr. Seung Kim’s lab at Stanford through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute fellowship, and is in the augural class of Knight-Henessey Fellows. With her Knight-Henessey Fellowship, Mollie will pursue a PhD in Stanford's Developmental Biology program, and will graduate with a dual MD-PhD from Stanford. and The liberal arts education and thoughtful mentorship that Mollie received at Bowdoin enabled her to achieve the enriching experiences that have informed her decision to pursue a career in academic medicine, collaborative basic science research, and treating underserved Hispanic communities.

Andi Noble

Andi Noble

Class of: 2015

Major(s): Hispanic Studies, History

Minor(s): Education

On my very first day of Education 1101 during the fall of my first year at Bowdoin, I was exposed to at least five other types of school experiences, and I was hooked. I left each class thereafter full of new perspectives, ideas, and questions.

Why Education?

Prior to Bowdoin, my education experience consisted only of my rural schooling in western Wyoming. To me, my small, homogeneous local school was representative of most schools in the United States. It was the only thing I had ever known, so I never questioned it. On my very first day of Education 1101 during the fall of my first year at Bowdoin, I was exposed to at least five other types of school experiences, and I was hooked. I left each class thereafter full of new perspectives, ideas, and questions. It was those lingering questions that kept me going back and fueling my curiosity for the American education system.

The following year, I took Education 2203 (Educating All Students), which gave me the opportunity to observe and be a part of a fifth grade classroom. It was there where I was first able to see theory put into practice. Since then, I have had the great opportunity to take Education 2265 (Using the Environment to Educate), Education 3325 (Mindfulness in Education), and finally Teaching and Learning and Curriculum (Education 3301/3302)—all of which have furthered my desire and passion to teach with their time spent in schools, engaging discussions, and preparation for a confident future in education. Each class has been unique, but each has contributed to my overall formation as a learner and as a future teacher. I especially value the local school engagement component part of my classes, as it provides a unique opportunity to witness different teaching and learning techniques and build close connections with the Maine community.

The capstone of my experience in education at Bowdoin has come through my time in Teaching Learning and Curriculum (Education 3301/3302). This past semester, I have spent well over 40 hours in an 8th grade Social Studies classroom as an active observer and participant. The excitement I get each morning as I navigate through the bustling hallways and into the challenge of teaching in the classroom is something I can’t shake.

My time in my education classes at Bowdoin has inspired me to pursue education in other forms as well. I spent the fall semester of my junior year studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina. While there, I worked as an English tutor in a trilingual school (Spanish, Italian, and English). I was grateful to have the confidence and knowledge that I gained from my education courses to be able to teach in this situation, and I have gained so much from bringing that experience home with me and expanding upon it.

These past four years have exposed me to educational experiences far beyond my own—in Maine, the United States, and beyond. I am not sure where my education path will take me next as I prepare to graduate in the spring, but I go with the guidance and preparation that has been given to me by all the amazing professors of the Education department. I know that I will keep asking questions as we work toward the answers of education in our country today, and I can’t wait!

Marcella Jimenez

Marcella Jimenez

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Hispanic Studies

Minor(s): Education

While I do not know what the future holds, I know it must touch education in some way. I hope to teach, work on education policy, or act as a social worker in schools.

Why Education?

I grew up in Richardson, TX, a city north of Dallas, and attended a public school that I started walking to with my friends when I was in second grade. It was a school embedded into the community, with sufficient resources, and a friendly staff. Around 3rd grade, my parents started talking about placing me in a private school. When I asked them why, they explained that the school’s emphasis on standardized testing, mandated by the state of Texas, was diluting my education—when I complete assignments early I filed paperwork and stapled handouts for teachers, and during free reading time I was often asked to read with students who were struggling. While I denied their criticisms of my beloved elementary school, I couldn’t help but notice the faults and flaws that abounded within the classroom. While ultimately I ended up at a private, co-ed school in Dallas, their comments and my vicarious experience of public school from my childhood friends inspired me to think critically about education: Why do some students get a better education than others? How do you quantify student success? What does critically thinking look like?

During my first year at Bowdoin, I decided to take Contemporary American Education in hope for some answers to these tough questions. However, after a few weeks of intense course readings and dynamic discussions, I found myself with more questions than answers! I quickly discovered the layers of complexity that lie beneath the surface of American education and was enthralled by the systems of inequality, that contribute to the challenges of public education, as well as the hard work of teachers and schools that point towards the promise that lies within schools. The following semester, I enrolled in Educating All Students and spent 4 hours a week working with a middle school student at Brunswick Junior High. A bright-eyed, seventh grade girl, she embodied the dichotomies and challenges we read about and discussed in class. My relationship with her enriched and complicated my understanding of how middle schoolers learn and view themselves in the classroom.

With a couple semesters of education under my belt, a professor of mine encouraged me to pursue a summer internship in the education field. With her support and counsel, I spent the summer before my junior year working as an Education Policy Research Intern at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C. During my internship, I attended hearings on Capitol Hill, lobbied for early childhood education legislation, and researched important issues surrounding school equity. My research focused predominantly on disproportionality in school discipline, disparities in school funding, and the implication of Common Core for poor children and children of color. This experience served as the perfect springboard into Doris Santoro’s Urban Education course, in which I’m currently enrolled.

While I do not know what the future holds, I know it must touch education in some way. I hope to teach, work on education policy, or act as a social worker in schools. Although schools are not sufficient to solve for systemic inequality, they are necessary. Through my coursework and conversations with education professors, I’ve come to learn what the state of education in the U.S. looks like, as well as imagine what it could be.