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Making Molecular Biology Less Scary

Metcalf Cup and Prize winner Tom Gilmore’s enthusiasm ranges from classroom to baseball diamond


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Metcalf Cup and Prize winner Tom Gilmore spoke to us about a variety of topics. Click on a bulleted point below to hear his thoughts.


When Tom Gilmore was little, he wanted to be a baseball player. As he grew up, he painted houses, did landscaping, and worked for veterinarians. When he got to college, he majored in English and decided to become a writer.

Then he became a biology professor.

“I realize that molecular biology sounds a little scary to some people,” says Gilmore, a winner of the 2009 Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching. “But a lot of it just has to do with being willing to put in the time, making sacrifices.”

One sacrifice was a professional baseball career, although Gilmore still plays in a summer softball league — for a team named Mo Bio Blues.

Gilmore discovered his love of scientific research as a research assistant at the University of California, San Francisco. After graduate school, he saw two options: working for a university where he could teach and pursue his own research, or joining a large pharmaceutical biotech company. He chose Boston University, starting November 9, 1987 (a date he recalls without hesitation), and has been here since.

Gilmore’s students appreciate his commitment, as comments from his evaluations reveal: “When does this guy sleep?” “He obviously loves to teach and loves what he teaches.” “He is by far the best professor I have had during my undergraduate years.”

But Gilmore insists that anyone could do what he does. “I try to let students know I am not different from them,” he says. “Like me, with great effort, they can succeed and be rewarded by the pursuit of knowledge.”

Two winners of the Metcalf Cup and Prize and the winner of the Metcalf Award were announced at Senior Breakfast on May 1. The prizes will be presented at Commencement, on Sunday, May 17.

Established in 1973 by a gift from the late Arthur G. B. Metcalf (SED’35, Hon.’74), a former faculty member and chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees, the honors are an expression of gratitude to teachers regarded by students as defining figures. The Cup and Prize comes with $10,000.

A committee selects the winner using statements from the nominees. Letters of recommendation from students are key, drawing committee members into the classroom to experience a professor’s energy and enthusiasm.

Read Monday’s story about Metcalf Award winner Peter Busher, a College of General Studies professor and chair of the division of natural science, and yesterday’s story about the other Metcalf Cup and Prize winner, Michelle LaCourse, a College of Fine Arts professor of viola and chair of the string department.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.


One Comment on Making Molecular Biology Less Scary

  • Mary (Tulipani) Cassoni on 05.06.2009 at 9:42 am

    GO TOM!

    Way to go Tom Gilmore.
    I always knew you were great : )

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