Researcher Spotlight : Tyler Stevenson

Published: 23 May 2019

This week, Elle puts Dr Tyler Stevenson under the Spotlight. Dr Stevenson is a Senior Lecturer in IBAHCM, based at Garscube but previously spent 5-years as a Senior Lecturer in Aberdeen...

This week, Elle puts Dr Tyler Stevenson under the Spotlight. Dr Stevenson is a Senior Lecturer in IBAHCM, based at Garscube but previously spent 5-years as a Senior Lecturer in Aberdeen. Having completed his PhD at Johns Hopkins University and then a Postdoc fellow at the Institute for Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago, his research in IBAHCM has focused on evolution, development and mechanisms that govern long-term biological rhythms. A family man (wife Andrea and 2 daughters Lilah and Charlotte), dog-owner (German Shepherd, Freya) and successful academic, Tyler somehow also manages to stay true to his Canadian roots by playing ice-hockey (perhaps allowing him to help address the comments from Reviewer #2…).

Tyler Stevenson spotlight article 01 picCan you tell us about your background?
I grew up in Canadian ‘sticks’, a town called Lobo. I was a cattle and crop farmer and spent my time outdoors exploring animal life; at an early age I became fascinated by seasonal changes in the environment and how animals either coped/escaped during -20˚C winters through to +30˚C summers. My initial interest in academe started in secondary school: I wanted to complete a PhD at Princeton under the guidance of Elaine Pagels (an American religious historian), as I wanted to study early Christianity between 33AD and 303AD (Jesus’ death to the Nicene Creed). My first biology class was in University (Western Ontario), after which I became interested in physiology and psychology. I completed my UG with a double major (Physiology & Psychology) and then a Master’s in Science, with a specialisation in Neuroscience. While at Western Ontario, I developed my long-term research programme of studying not just animal seasonal physiology and behaviour, but how animals anticipate or predict future environments at a physiological level.

Why did you decide to come to IBACHM?
Primarily the draw of its research facilities and collaborators.

What part of your current work have you enjoyed the most?
Expanding the laboratory experimental techniques was the best advice I received during my early career. Given the recent advancements focusing on using nucleic acid sequencing tools, the laboratory is now enjoying the capability to sequence genomes etc.

Have you come up against any unforeseen challenges?
There are always walls that hinder research/life developments. What is important is to develop strategies to navigate the obstacles. The more strategies one possesses, the easier it is to overcome unforeseen challenges.

What is your key research interest?
The (epi)genomic mechanisms that anticipate a future environmental condition.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your previous work?
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Find researchers with similar interests, life expectations and abilities to persevere. When one project does not produce robust results, you will always have 2-3 other projects to develop your research programme.

What comes to mind when reflecting on your PhD-life?

The PhD does not formally train researchers for most of the responsibilities of a permanent job. For example, accountant (manage grant finances); lawyer (legally responsible for laboratory health and safety as well as animal care); marketer (selling the lab ‘brand’). However, the training does teach you (and you learn) more than you need to know to easily perform these duties without the formal training. Looking back now, most of what I learned during my PhD has been transferable, I just did not realise it at the time.

Can you tell us about your plans for the future?
To meet both my biological and academic grandchildren.

First published: 23 May 2019