“Who are you?”
“No one of consequence.”
“I must know.”
“Get used to disappointment.”
-William Goldman, The Princess Bride
I’m not naive enough to think that the internet at large has been clamoring for the past several years to figure out my ‘secret identity’. The truth of the matter is that most of the people who read this blog do so because they already know me. But with the launch of my brand new Twitter account a couple weeks ago (yes I’m often late to the party, but I usually get there eventually; in this case you can find me @tinkeringprim8), I think now is a good time for me to finally step out from behind the curtain, remove my cape & cowl, and introduce myself properly.
Hello. My name is
Inigo Montoya Lara Saipe Durgavich, and I am a College Fellow in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. It’s my second year in this position, which is essentially a teaching-based post-doc, and I am happy to be one of those rare people able to say that I honestly enjoy my job.
For today’s “Introduction to Me” seminar, I’m going to stick to a simple two-part recipe: my work in academia (research + teaching) and my life outside academia (imagining, for the moment, that the notion of ‘work/life balance’ is more than just a muddy puddle).
Life in the Ivory Tower
I got where I am today via a circuitous academic pathway, although I have not traveled far geographically. I completed my undergraduate education at Tufts University (go Jumbos!) in 2003, and received my doctoral degree in biological anthropology from Boston University in 2013. As the “About Me” page on this site describes, my research focuses on the reproductive endocrinology, behaviors, and life history pattern of orangutans, and I use this information to try to better understand the evolution of human reproductive and life history characteristics. I recently presented some of the results from my dissertation at the inaugural Nor’Eastern Primate Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior conference (name since changed to NEEP: Northeastern Evolutionary Primatology), which I highly recommend attending next year. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future I’ll also manage to get some manuscripts submitted for publication, and will be able to describe my findings to all of you in more detail. But in the meantime, here’s a close-up photo of Chinta, one of the orangutans at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle who generously provided urine samples for my dissertation analyses. [Fun fact: it is easier to train an orangutan to provide a urine sample in a cup than it is to train a toddler to use the potty.]
While it’s fun to use the fact that I analyze orangutan urine as an ice-breaker at parties, teaching is how I actually spend the great majority of my time. As a graduate student, I taught a variety of courses at Boston University, including Introduction to Biological Anthropology, The Ape Within, Human Population Biology, Human Sex Differences, and Medical Anthropology. As a College Fellow at Harvard I’ve continued to develop and teach additional courses, adding Reproductive Ecology, The Behavioral Biology of Women, and Evolutionary Health and Medicine to my CV. In the future, I hope to continue to develop more new courses, particularly some that focus on primate behavior/cognition or conservation. I also aspire to someday teach the Primates and Pop Culture class that’s been on my mind for the past several years, so if anyone knows of a good venue for that, please let me know.
Life in the Condo that We’re Rapidly Outgrowing
Outside academia, my energies are mostly devoted to my husband, my 3-year-old daughter, and a red standard poodle who barks too much. We also have a baby boy due to arrive in April (my reproductive success is going up, up, up!) and, as was the case last time, pregnancy is proving draining. But here’s a quick list of things I enjoy doing when time and money permit:
- Reading fiction (the last 5-star book I read was called ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’)
- Crossword puzzles, Acrostic puzzles, and other word games. Also jigsaw puzzles.
- Watching TV & movies (you don’t get the idea for a ‘Primates and Pop Culture’ class without being a bit of a pop culture junkie)
- Traveling (our most recent big trip was to the Galapagos Islands last winter)
That’s hardly an exhaustive autobiography, I know. But hopefully it helps fill in my background and contextualize my enthusiasm for science & nature (primates and other animals in particular). Please subscribe to this blog if you enjoy my sadly-few-and-far-between posts, or follow me on Twitter (@tinkeringprim8), where posts require far less effort!