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Diane Haynes Memorial Award: Matthew Pennell

Presented to an outstanding graduate student in the College of Science.

My name is Matthew Pennell.
I am from Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada.

Why did you choose UI?
I came to the U of I to study with my future advisor, Dr. Luke Harmon. I thought his research was exciting and several mentors from my undergraduate institution encouraged me to go work with him. I knew very little about the school, Moscow, or Idaho before arriving—and honestly I was initially hesitant to move to a small town in a foreign country—but came to love it here.

In my office, pictured next to a phylogeny of Angiosperms (the "flowering plants")


Mathematical Statistics, taught by (now Dean of the College of Science) Dr. Paul Joyce.

Dr. Luke Harmon

The Harmon lab, of course.

Research Project?
The evolutionary history of sex chromosomes.

All dressed up for my dissertation defense

Study Time

Study early or procrastinate?
As a grad student, there are no deadlines; no matter how much one gets done, there is always more to do.

Go-to Snack?
Jalapeño Cheetos.

Banding birds in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada Banding birds in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada

Campus Life

Dorm or Greek?

Intramural Sports or Student Clubs?
Ultimate Frisbee, occasionally

What's Next?

What are your plans for after graduation?
I am moving back to Canada to do postdoctoral research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

What should incoming first-year students know?
While everyone expects graduate school to be intellectually challenging, few people realize how much of an emotional slog it is. It is incredibly easy to fall into a spiral of self-doubt—nobody cares about me; I am not smart enough; my research doesn't matter; I won't be competitive for jobs. Learning to be resilient to the (frequent) blows to your confidence is the real struggle of grad school; research is easy by comparison.

What advice do you have for other students in your major?
Keep a regular schedule. Find interesting people to collaborate with. Write. All the time.

Early morning selfie in Prague, Czech Republic, where I was teaching a course


College of Science

Physical Address:
Mines 321

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3025
Moscow, ID 83844-3025

Phone: 208-885-6195

Fax: 208-885-6904


Web: College of Science