Dennison retires after 20 years with CSL
For the past 20 years, Beth Dennison has been an integral part of the Coordinated Science Laboratory. From administrative support to research guidance to a passion for cultivating community, Dennison has contributed to a successful history and a promising future at CSL.
On April 30 of this year, Dennison will retire from the University. As CSL celebrates its 65th year in 2016, Dennison reflects on the experiences, changes, and highlights of her time at CSL.
What are the biggest changes you have seen at CSL in the past 20 years? What are your predictions for the future of CSL?
CSL has always been an interdisciplinary lab, but in the past 20 years, it’s become even more interdisciplinary. We have built more collaborations across research groups within CSL. We’re collaborating with the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, the Institute for Genomic Biology, education, kinesiology, biology, and more. It’s been developing for a long time, and it’s been exciting to see it grow.
There have also been more funding opportunities for larger proposals—more and more faculty are going after center-type proposals. CSL fosters the culture, and our faculty are very good at making connections and changing the landscape of science. The world is going toward multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary problems, and I think CSL is absolutely at the forefront of that, and we have been for 65 years.
CSL is successful because we’re agile. We change to meet the needs of society, but our faculty are also the ones coming up with the next big scientific ideas of the future. I think that will continue.
What are some fundamental roots of CSL that have stayed the same?
Though our research is interdisciplinary, CSL has always concentrated on fundamental research. We have good building blocks for foundational research, and this gives us a strong base. I don’t foresee that changing in the future.
Why have you made CSL your professional home for 20 years? What are some of your favorite parts of the job?
It’s a great place to work. It’s been a good experience for me, and I’ve learned a lot. I think we have wonderful faculty. The grad students here are fun and enthusiastic. Our staff is wonderful. I think we’ve just got a good bunch people, and that has made my time here enjoyable.
What I have appreciated the most about the U of I, as an employer, and CSL, are the opportunities that exist. If you have goals or ambitions, you can do just about anything. I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to continue to grow, and I’m very fortunate for that.
I also like that at CSL, there are always doors open, and people are talking and collaborating. I’m very proud when I see students involved with faculty members, the start-up companies that have evolved from CSL, and generally the success that our students experience when they leave.
The kind of research that is done here is amazing to me. It is research that can change everyday lives. I get teary eyed just thinking about it. I have taken great joy over the years to at least make the place run so that those things can happen.
With your upcoming retirement, have you given thought to what you hope to do?
Right now, I don’t have specific plans, but that is what I’m looking forward to—not having plans. At some point in time, I will do volunteer work and more traveling. I like to garden, and it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the last few years. But I’m definitely looking forward to not having a schedule for a little bit.