Inspired to create opportunity for high school students, Lynn Moorhead Riddiford ’53 ’54 hopes her gift in support of a new living and learning community at JAX will empower a new generation of young scientists.
It wasn’t the advertisements for hair color or non-smear lipsticks that caught 16-year-old Lynn Moorhead’s attention as she flipped through an issue of Seventeen magazine in 1953. It was instead an article by a young woman who had spent her summer at The Jackson Laboratory as part of the Summer Student Program (SSP).
“I thought it would be really exciting to become involved in biological research and to learn how it was done,” Lynn says.
With her interest sparked, Lynn convinced her parents to let her attend and arrived in Bar Harbor on the SSP’s 25th anniversary. One of her summer mentors was Dr. Leroy Stevens, known to many now as the father of embryonic stem cell research. The JAX experience empowered Lynn to think more broadly about where she might attend college. She set her sights on Radcliffe and her remarkable career launched into motion.
Now, Lynn and her husband, Professor Jim Truman, hope to inspire the larger JAX community as the inaugural donors to JAX’s proposed Living-Learning Community for summer students under the age of 18. For Lynn, the gift represents a chance for future generations to experience a powerful addition to a program that profoundly shaped her life and career.
Building on a renowned reputation
For nearly a century, JAX’s SSP has brought talented, curious young people to Bar Harbor, ME, for hands-on participation in the pursuit and discovery of scientific knowledge. During the 10-week residential program, trainees develop an independent project under the guidance of an experienced research mentor, perform experiments, analyze data and report their results. Students are matched with mentors from across JAX’s areas of expertise, including cancer, developmental biology and aging, rare disease and neurobiology, among other fields.
The new JAX Living-Learning Community will provide students with unique opportunities to convene as a group, support one another and build their confidence with the help of near-peer and faculty mentors.
Students will have access to JAX researchers at every level including graduate students, postbaccalaureate researchers and postdoctoral associates, exposing them to the full range of intellect and experience. The goal is to build a strong community and a sense of belonging that endures beyond their JAX summer.
The living-learning community will then bolster the summer experience with an additional year-long program of support, encouragement and practical assistance for SSP trainees.
Throughout their senior year of high school, students will receive the added benefit of advice on navigating college admissions, applying for scholarships and participating in scientific conferences. During this critical “bonus year,” the JAX LLC will strengthen connections forged over the summer by offering opportunities for leadership development and career advice, including encouraging students to apply for relevant career opportunities at JAX.
Lynn is passionate about providing the SSP experience to students under the age of 18 – a time when budding scientists are hungry for both knowledge and new experiences.
“We feel it is important to nurture a high school student’s interest in science by giving them opportunity to explore the research side early,” Lynn says. “And we hope the additional help during their senior year will help guide them in their search for colleges that foster their budding interest.”
What is a Living-Learning Community?
A “living-learning community” is a residential program designed to nurture community, stability and academic engagement among students with common experiences or interests.
Living-learning communities have been particularly effective among students interested in STEM. A 2019 study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One found that STEM course grades increased 0.25 (on a 1-4.0 scale) in cumulative first-year GPA for students in a living learning community. Students also demonstrated gains outside the classroom, especially in attaining a sense of belonging among their peers and an ability to balance academics with the other aspects of their lives.
Honoring an extraordinary career in science
Lynn’s summer at JAX catalyzed a lifelong commitment to teaching, scholarship and scientific discovery. An entomologist and developmental biologist, she is known for her groundbreaking research on the role of hormones in insect metamorphosis. She went on to graduate from Radcliffe College with a degree in Biochemical Sciences, later receiving her Ph.D. in Zoology and Chemistry from Cornell University. She became the first female faculty member at Harvard University’s Department of Biology. She also met Jim at Harvard while serving as his faculty adviser. They married in 1970.
Lynn and Jim are devoted to each other and to science. They both hold Professor Emeriti titles from the University of Washington and went on to serve as Senior Fellows at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, a national hub of neurobiological research. Earlier this spring, Jim joined Lynn as a member of the National Academy of the Sciences, widely considered to be one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. They retired in 2016 to Friday Harbor, WA, where they continue to do research at the Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington.
Their gift to JAX, made through a bequest intention, represents their investment and confidence in the up-and-coming generation of STEM researchers. They hope to inspire others to follow their example.
“The Jackson Lab experience gives students a chance to explore STEM research in depth and often it kindles a lifelong passion for scientific research,” Lynn says.
To learn more about the JAX Living Learning Community or to make a gift, visit www.jax.org/give or call 800-474-9880.