Early Ph.D. project fell apart, but grad’s scientific drive never failed

Monday, May 22, 2023 - 13:22 in Mathematics & Economics

This story is part of a series of graduate profiles ahead of Commencement. Shoyo Sato had a clear idea of his research focus — the social lives of spiders — when he embarked on Ph.D. studies in evolutionary biology. But before long, thanks to the pandemic and other forces beyond his control, the foundation of his project began to crumble. Then it collapsed. “In the middle of his Ph.D., he had to completely reconfigure his research,” said Gonzalo Giribet, Sato’s faculty adviser and a biology professor at Harvard. “He’s gone through the most difficulties of any grad students I have ever had.” Sato persisted, shifting to a new organism — the velvet worm — that he’d briefly worked with when he started in Giribet’s lab. And now, ahead of graduation from the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he looks back on the experience as the best thing that could’ve...

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