Vincent Eckhart (1996). Professor of Biology. B.A., Pomona College; Ph.D., University of Utah.
Vince Eckhart joined the Biology Department in 1996 after having taught and conducted research at the University of Utah, University of California-Berkeley, and Cornell University. He has taught at all levels of the Biology curriculum, including advanced special topics, Tutorials, and MAPs. His philosophy of teaching biology emphasizes having students make and communicate their own discoveries by practicing science that is connected to their surroundings and communities. In his role as Director of the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA), he has designed and put in place long-term experimental studies that exceed in scale what could be achieved in the context of a single course. The teaching value of these experiments benefits all Grinnell faculty and students who teach and undertake to learn field biology. Professor Eckhart has developed innovative pedagogy by having students learn to communicate results as scientific journalism, thus developing their ability to communicate to an audience of non-scientists, as well as having them write conventional scientific articles. His innovations also include linking concepts, data, and model organisms across the two-semester Biology core courses to encourage students to see across the whole of biology. He has engaged in interdisciplinary teaching together with colleagues in English, history, and education.
Professor Eckhart’s research addresses fundamental questions of plant evolution and ecology—plant adaptation to the environment, factors that constrain adaptation, and species geographical distributions by integrating across levels of biological organization. During graduate school he received highly prestigious support from both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Since that time, he has served as principal investigator or collaborating principal investigator on one USDA research grant and six NSF research, instrumentation, and curricular development grants. Since his promotion to associate professor in 2001 he has published nine research articles, four of which are in the very top journals in his field. Five of these publications are co-authored with Grinnell MAP students, an accomplishment noted by his reviewers. Sought out by collaborators at research universities and continuing to publish with them, including as first author, he is clearly a respected scholar in his field.
Professor Eckhart’s service has been extensive, reaching well beyond his department. He serves willingly with an exceptionally high level of conscientiousness and responsibility. Over the years, the department has been particularly grateful for his attention to detail on the Noyce Science Center Phase II construction and renovation project, his consistent involvement in the development of CERA, his performance as chair of the Biology department, and his multiyear commitment as department staff supervisor. His college-wide service reflects his commitments to environmental sustainability, interdisciplinarity, social justice, and shared governance. He has served on the Committee on Academic Standing, Personnel Appeals Board, and the Ad-hoc Ombuds Committee. His service to his research community is reflected in the level at which he is invited and completes reviews for journals. His departmental colleagues affirm that his contributions to the College, the region, and the scientific community are deep and meaningful.