- Do you like bicycles as much as I do?
- Vida: I love to ride! I have been bike commuting for over 20 years. The only time I don’t like biking is when it gets below 10 degrees, is icy, or in heavy, fast traffic (e.g. biking in LA wasn’t really that much fun).
- Sam: I like bicycles, but probably not as much as you or Vida.
- Have you ever made bread?
- Vida: I love to bake and I have made bread, although I’d say most of my free-form loaves of french-type bread were pretty disappointing. I wish there was a great local bakery for bread here.
- Sam: I've made bread a number of times (sometimes with one of those evil automatic bread bakers). I make bagels more frequently, though.
- What is your educational background?
- I went to elementary through high school in Omaha, NE. Swarthmore College (undergrad), MIT (grad school), U. Chicago (post-doc), Grinnell.
- I went to elementary through high school in Newton, MA. University of Chicago for undergraduate and graduate. Taught at Dartmouth as a visitor before coming to Grinnell.
- Can you describe in more depth your current research?
- Vida: I study embryonic development (more specifically gastrulation) in C. elegans. I am studying a mutant with defects in gastrulation. It turns out that cell migration is defective in the mutants, although the mechanism isn’t clear at this point.
- Sam: I am exploring issues related to interactive
scripting (writing small programs) and media computations, primarily images. So far, my work has emphasized the ways that media scripting can motivate people to learn programming. Over the next few years, I will be looking at ways to build programming tools to help artists.
- Has teaching this course helped you in your own research, and if so how?
- Vida: I use bioinformatics tools all the time (C. elegans is one organism with a complete genome sequence) and this class has certainly increased my knowledge of these tools. More importantly, I’ve gained a greater appreciation of how they actually work.
- Sam: Not really.
- What is your favorite sushi?
- Vida: All kinds – the best Sushi I ever had was in a restaurant in Seattle called Nishino. It was fabulous.
- Sam: I'd agree with Vida: All kinds.
- What are your favorite sports teams?
- Vida: Seattle Sounders, US Women, & Uruguay National F.C. Chicago White Sox and anyone playing the Cubs or Yankees. Green Bay Packers and Nebraska Cornhuskers.
- Sam: The Celtics (particularly the Havlicek-era Celtics). The Grinnell Tigers (because my kids play). Whoever is playing against the L.A. Kers. (They should not be called the
Lakers; that name clearly belongs to their Minnesota roots.) I tend to root for New England and Chicago teams, but don't feel as strongly about them as I do about the Celtics.
What is your favorite outfit?
- Vida: Sam’s Tigger costume.
- Vida: Jonathan's (middle son's) duct-tape suit.
What are the origins of the name “Vida”?
- It is Lithuanian (probably derived from Latin after Christianity arrived in Lithuania). My mother said I looked like a Vida when I was born, so that’s why she named my Vida. (My siblings are Judith, Edward, and Irena).
- Do you have a favorite board game or video game?
- Vida: I like playing Wii with my kids – Mario Cart is pretty fun, but I’m not very good at it. I also like playing Lego Star Wars. Other games I play with my kids include Twister, Jumanji, trouble, UNO, US geography game, etc.
- Sam: I play video games with my kids less than I used to. I tend to prefer old-school video games (Robotron and Tempest remain two of my favorites). I like playing Carcassonne and Bohanza with the kids. The kids also like playing Monopoly and Munchkin. Cosmic Encounter is a long-time favorite, but I haven't played it in a while.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to an aspiring graduate student?
- Vida: Pursue what you love.
- Sam: Remember that your thesis is not the end of your career. It's the entry. So do the graduate work quickly, and realize you can pick new areas when you graduate.
- Have you ever watched the TV Series Firefly by Joss Whedon, and if so, did you do the only humanly thing possible and love it?
- Vida: I’ve never seen the show. If is isn’t on network I usually don’t know about it because I don’t have cable/satellite TV.
- It's on my
to watch list, but I haven't watched it yet. I was surprisingly addictied to Dollhouse, though.
- What is your five favorite list?
- Vida: My 5 favorites list (music)- Green Day, Sarah Vaughn, Cecilia Bartoli, Silvio Rodriguez, & The Army Icy Penguins.
- Sam: Five favorite Jonathan Richman songs: Roadrunner, Not Yet Three, Dodge Veg-O-Matic, That Summer Feeling, That Kinda Music.
- What languages do you speak?
- Vida: I speak English (often not as well as I’d like), I know some Lithuanian, a little Spanish, and even less Japanese.
- Sam: Natural languages: I speak English relatively well. I took a few years of Spanish and Latin and a year of German. I wouldn't say I speak any of them well. I lived in Holland for ages 1-3, and remember a very little bit of Dutch. Unnatural languages: The last time I counted, I had written programs in more than three dozen programming languages. My favorites tend to be Scheme (small and elegant) and C (small and elegant, but in a very different way).
- What are your six favorite restaurants in Grinnell? And what is your favorite thing to eat there?
- Vida: Cafe Phoenix (fish specials), Lonski’s (veggie sandwich), Candyland (turtle sundae), Grinnell Steakhouse (Ribeye sandwich), Montgomery’s (their loose meat sandwich), Casa Margarita (Carne Asada and Puerco Adobado).
- Sam: Cafe Phoenix (Veggie Wellington), ...
- Who is the future of computing? Google, Apple, or GNU?
- Vida: I have no idea.
- Sam: I have no idea. I expect it's Google.
- How did the two of you came across the idea of teaching a class together- who approached whom and what inspired this collaboration of minds?
- Vida: It was so long ago I can’t remember. We talked about this quite a few years ago, but it took a long time to get schedules and funding put together for the course. Sam sat in on Bio251 and Advanced Genetics; I took CS151.
- Sam: I think it came up as part of a more general
What are good interdisciplinary courses for Grinnell to offer in the sciences? conversation.
- What sorts of things do you like to do for fun?
- Vida: Hang out with my family, ride my bike, and eat great meals with friends.
- Sam: Spend time with my family. Cook. Read.
If you could go back in time and change one decision that you've made, what would it be?
- Vida: I wouldn’t. I have a great life and although I’ve made plenty of mistakes, I’m pretty happy with how things are going. Change one thing and who knows?
- Sam: I'd spend more time with my parents. I guess that's not one thing. So, I'd pick one time I could have spent more time with my mother and spend more time with her.
- How was your sabbatical?
- Vida: Awesome! I had a great time doing research in Seattle and I got to work with a lot of really fantastic scientists.
- Sam: Forthcoming!