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Pursuing a PhD from Italy to Newfoundland

By Janet Harron

Why would an Italian geographer choose to enrol in doctoral studies at Memorial?

Upon meeting the Department of Geography's Dr. Alistair Bath in Rome, Italy, Beatrice Frank's choice was crystal clear.

"His talk astonished me," said Dr. Frank. "I had been working in conservation biology but Alistair made me see so clearly that if we don't make people part of conservation, we will never achieve it."

Decision made, she promptly changed her focus area, secured her funding and headed for Newfoundland with her partner.

"I didn't even know there was such a big island in this part of Canada. In Italy, we study the continental geography of North America, but I was completely ignorant of the existence of Newfoundland," said Dr. Frank.

She's now not merely aware of the existence of Newfoundland – she's augmented the provincial population. A mere three weeks after defending her PhD thesis in March, Dr. Frank gave birth to her daughter Alice ("It is spelled the same in Italian and in English") on April 19 at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. Incidentally, she is the third geography PhD candidate this academic year to defend her thesis while pregnant.

"What a fantastic asset Beatrice has been to my human dimensions team," said Dr. Bath about his doctoral student. "They say good things come in little packages and Bea, while physically tiny, is a huge contributor to the HD team. I thoroughly enjoy writing papers with her, sharing presentations and she has even been teaching my resource courses within our geography department."

Originally from Rome, Dr. Frank grew up with a big passion for nature, wildlife and the outdoors. Now that she has spent nearly five years in Canada, she hopes to stay and continue to work with Dr. Bath and his team.

"This is really a new way to help the co-existence between humans and wildlife," said Dr. Frank of her human dimensions work. "Domain is becoming more popular – in my neighbourhood there was a moose this morning – so we must increase tolerance and co-operation between species."