Informational Interview with Prof. Christopher Jones, Moravian College (PUI)

By Christopher Sorich, Conviron Scholar

Dr. Christopher Jones is professor and chair of the Biology department at Moravian College located in Bethlehem, PA. He is interested in many aspects of molecular genetics, but his research focuses primarily on the genetics of behavior in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, especially learning and memory as well as seizure disorders.


B.A. in Biology and Russian, Haverford College

M.Phil. in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, Yale University

Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, Yale University

1.   How did you make the decision to do a post-doc in Japan?

I talked to one of the people in my lab and told him my dilemma: If I am going to switch to a different organism in a different field should I do that now but lose this opportunity to go to Japan? He said “I can’t make that decision for you, but as you get older you won’t get this opportunity again.” It was one of the few pieces of good advice I got from him.

2.   What preparation was required to obtain your job currently?

Preparation, about nothing. Historically the idea was if you had a PhD, you were smart and you could teach people. Many of us know that is not quite the case. You can have a PhD and be terrible person and you can certainly be a terrible teacher. Now, many of our younger faculty have experience taking classes about how to teach.

3.   What are some things you like about your job?

The process of being able to communicate an idea to someone so that they get it and understand it.

Another thing is the autonomy. I really did not like the idea of working on a project for 5 or 6 years and then to have some uniformed suit – as a result of some corporate takeover – come in and say “yeah yeah we are not going in this direction anymore, you are all done here. We are going to have you doing this other completely unrelated thing.”

4.   What are some things you like least about your job?

I have a lot of good students, but not a lot of money. There are things I would like to get done fast if I had a lot more money. I don’t, so I can’t get them done fast.

5.   What keeps you motivated?

“Habit and stubborn trust that [our audience spied upon us from behind the nearest bush.]” No, that’s a line from a play. (Dr. Jones is a major force in our theater production on campus.) Part of it is a flat-out sense of obligation. I do enjoy the teaching, although it can be frustrating at times. Ultimately, however, I have students who finish and come back and say “I really appreciate biochemistry, I really appreciate genetics. It was really hard while I was here, but now I’m teaching it to my peers who went to ‘better schools’ and they don’t know it as well as I do.” That is really gratifying…