In early 2022, Kendall Fitzgerald ’16 found herself patiently waiting for a flight to Madagascar, where she and a group of life scientists would spend the next couple of months studying a variety of flora and fauna. The fauna, including bats that harbored coronaviruses, had made international headlines for their potential to spread disease.
On Tuesday, April 25, Blair Academy is most excited to welcome back the alum, who plans on speaking about her international fieldwork as a field project manager for the University of Chicago’s Brook Lab, where she studies “zoonotic infections–pathogens transmitted from wildlife to human hosts.” She will also discuss her experience filming independent documentaries and her reflections on being an early career scientist.
“One thing I hope students take away from my talk is that they should feel free to think about unconventional careers,” said Ms. Fitzgerald in a pre-event interview, talking about her own experience choosing a career. “They should seriously consider what they want in life and, in each step, think ‘What’s the best thing that can happen?’”
Not only will Ms. Fitzgerald speak on her incredible work abroad at Skeptics, the former class salutatorian will also share her Blair memories and words of advice.
“It’s special to be able to talk to young students, and especially my alma mater, as an early career scientist myself. I am only still finding out just how many things you can do with your life, and what ‘doing science’ really means. So, I hope this talk, like other Skeptics talks, provides comfort for students who might want to know that there are a million careers out there, and they don’t have to choose just one.”
What’s also special for the University of California, Berkeley, graduate, who obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in integrative biology, is that her talk will round out the Skeptics for the season–an event she enjoyed while a student at Blair.
“I loved Skeptics during my time at Blair and wish I had gone to more! I remember well one Skeptics speaker’s powerpoint slide that showed a career path resembling a pinball machine more than a straight line, and that gives me comfort to this day. If I can provide a moment like that for students—to find relief and excitement amid large expectations they might experience—I’d be very happy.”
All are welcome to hear Ms. Fitzgerald speak in the forum of the Chiang-Elghanayan Center next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.