Where are they now?
As a UGA student in the 1990s, Rob Sutherland studied biology, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the same time. He went on to Oxford University as a 1996 Rhodes Scholar, studying molecular ecology.
Today, Sutherland tends shop at Good Dirt, the Athens pottery studio he owns with his wife Kim.
“Firing the kiln is like doing an experiment,” he says. “You’ve got things you can control and you try to understand the system to produce the best results you can. Having a science background and being able to understand the chemistry really helps. I think potters without any higher education at all would have trouble. I can tinker and figure out what the problem is or why something isn’t working.”
It was after his time in England, where he earned a Ph.D., that he realized he did not want to be a scientist.
“I landed in a lab, and that’s probably what ruined me on science,” he says. “I didn’t love it enough to put up with the day in, day out of transferring liquids from one tube to another and waiting for results. I stuck with it, but by the time I was done with [the program], I just didn’t want to do that kind of work anymore.”
While at UGA, ecology professor Jim Porter (second from left) referred to Sutherland as his best student in 25 years. Eugene Odum (at left), the “father of modern ecology,” and President Knapp also offered Sutherland congratulations on winning the Rhodes scholarship. Special photo
While at UGA, ecology professor Jim Porter (second from left) referred to Sutherland as his best student in 25 years. Eugene Odum (at left), the “father of modern ecology,” and President Knapp also offered Sutherland congratulations on winning the Rhodes scholarship.
After a short stint teaching science and math at an Arizona school, he and Kim returned to Athens. They took a class at Good Dirt and Sutherland realized his creativity. He knew he wouldn’t be returning to science.
He bought the studio in 2004 and began a new career path. He teaches classes and cares for his 6-year-old son Rowan.
“It’s kind of weird when your business stems from your hobby,” he says. “I still enjoy what I’m doing, but now I can make money doing it. We’re not getting rich, but we’re not struggling, and I love what I’m doing.”