Focus on Faculty
John Wares, an associate professor of genetics, uses his enthusiasm for his subject to help carry students through challenging semesters filled with lots of details, data and ideas.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my bachelor's degree in zoology in 1995 from the University of Oklahoma and my Ph.D., also in zoology, from Duke University in 2000. I’m currently associate professor in the genetics department, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and graduate coordinator for the department. I teach "Intro to Evolution" to more than 180 students in the fall.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I started January 2005; the opportunity to continue my work as an evolutionary biologist while working with genetics colleagues who could improve my depth of understanding about the best ways to tackle interesting questions made it a great move.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I enjoy teaching "Intro to Evolution" even if it is a huge responsibility. It is almost a performance; my enthusiasm for the subject has to carry a lot of tired, exam-worn students through a semester filled with lots of details, data, ideas, history and uncertainty. I try to imagine what questions are popping into their heads and get an answer to them at the right time so that they trust and understand what the goal of my research field is.
What interests you about your field?
I am basically in pursuit of what drives and maintains biodiversity; sometimes the methods we use are arcane or difficult to explain, but ultimately I just like seeing the mechanisms that have allowed so much life to unfold over the millennia—and identify what we can do to prevent too much of it from being lost.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
What is important to me has been the work and successes involved in helping some amazing students finish their degrees, both undergraduate and graduate.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Teaching requires me to be more balanced in what I know; this has often led me to explore my science projects in different ways than I would have originally considered.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
An enthusiasm for learning more.
Describe your ideal student.
Not timid; willing to try things and fail, and try again.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
My favorite place on campus is the turtle pond between the ecology and forestry buildings; we all need an escape from computer monitors. Beyond the UGA campus, I like to catch live music downtown. I have a kid, so the nights I can get away are less frequent than they once were, but a great night for me involves the Georgia Theatre or 40 Watt and loud music flowing through me.
Community/civic involvement includes….
I help design and build trails for the local chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association; we are building trails for the community at one of ACC’s parks close to downtown, close to where the Greenway extension will go, and I think this project has let me work with so many good people—it is a very good part of my life in Athens.
"The Dharma Bums"by Jack Kerouac. It was given to me by a great friend and has led me in good directions. "Ulysses" is perhaps in a tie.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Pride is often balanced by the constant challenge of the job.
(Published on March 16, 2014)