Oral Histories

Rowan Lockwood


Rowan Lockwood


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Rowan Lockwood comes from Rockford and had encountered a lot of problems at her local high school, so she jumped at the opportunity to join IMSA's charter class. When she arrived in the fall of 1986 she found a "work in progress." She lived with 30 girls in a bunk room that had been a home economics classroom and stored her clothes in the oven. The environment fostered close friendships and once the students moved into the dorms, Lockwood stayed with the same roommate for three years.

IMSA students may be nerdy, but they are still high school students, and Lockwood describes some of the highjacks they got into. The only time she recalls getting in trouble was when she and some friends were in the upper mezzanine in the gym doing yoga. As punishment, by order of James Bondi, head of security (known as 006-and-a-half), they had to make signs for the gym and go around the building picking up leftover roofing tacks, which kept puncturing the tires of the security guards' golf carts.

Academically, she felt that having teachers in so many subjects who were enthusiastic and supportive made a huge difference. Lockwood particularly enjoyed her history classes and she went to college thinking she would be a history major. In her American history class with Bill Stepien sophomore year, the students worked on a project on the Eastland disaster in Chicago in 1915. They researched the event and eventually succeeded in getting a plaque installed to commemorate it. Outside of classes, she was on the swim team and in the band and orchestra.

Lockwood was one of the first students to get involved in research at IMSA, starting with a project for a science fair. She got interested in how pterosaurs could move on land and called a university professor with her questions. That led her to other connections and a larger project, which she submitted for the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and made it into the top 40. Doing this research had a transformative effect on her and ultimately was the starting point for her further education and career.

After IMSA, Lockwood attended Yale University, where she majored in biology and geology. She got a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology with a focus on paleontology. She is now a professor of geology, specializing in paleontology, at the College of William & Mary.

As well as having an impact on her research interests, Lockwood's IMSA experience has also influenced her perspective on teaching and science education. Her mentors while at IMSA made science seem less elitist and more open to everyone. In college, she started a community outreach organization that worked with middle school students on science projects they chose. In the way she teaches and works with students in her lab today, she also seeks to embody that ethos, to make science accessible.

Interviewer: Sara Goek. Duration: 27:53




alumni, charter class, extracurriculars, faculty, friends, history classes, research, residential life, science classes, sports


Oral history


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Rowan Lockwood