Amanda Southwood Williard is an Associate Professor in the Biology and Marine Biology Department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Marine Biology from Auburn University, Master’s in Zoology from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada), and Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Before coming to UNCW in 2005, Dr. Williard worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service through the Pacific Island Fisheries Center and had a Postdoctoral Fellowship through the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
Dr. Williard’s training is in comparative physiology – specifically in aspects of diving and thermal physiology of reptiles. Her current projects involve working with sea turtles and estuarine turtles, such as the diamond-back terrapin, and studying their physiological changes in response to their environment. She has several students working with her at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She chose STEM because of her interest in biology and a love of nature. Those interests grew into a thirst to understand more about natural processes and how animals function in their environments.
Over the course of her career, she’s noticed a balance shift in the ratio of males to females. When she first started graduate school, in the 1990’s, she remembers being it heavily weighted toward males, especially at the faculty level. However, being in a STEM field that was once typically dominated by men, she says she can’t really say that the disparity bothered her. In graduate school she did field work in Central America, which was a very male dominated environment. Dr. Williard does say that she’s been lucky – “I’ve had some amazing women mentors, and I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some amazing male mentors that were supportive of trying to promote women in science. I have never felt impeded in my ability or my drive to pursue what I wanted to do.”
She hasn’t dwelled too much on the thought of being a woman in STEM, her reasoning being she didn’t really perceive it as unusual. Dr. Williard does state, “One thing that is an undeniable challenge, and when I was coming through in the 1990’s, I did not have many mentors to show me that it is possible to succeed at your career and also pursue other things in your personal life that you may want to achieve. I didn’t have many roles models in that regard back then because it seemed more difficult. But now, if you look at the faculty we have in the Biology Department here, you will see that many women are at the pinnacle of their academic career success, but they’ve managed to balance doing things in their personal life that they wanted to do as well. I feel like it’s very positive, and I do feel like I am very lucky to be in an environment where I‘ve been able to achieve that. For me as a woman in science now, I just feel like I don’t consider myself a role model. Maybe for me, and all the other women that are in our department, who are being a professor and a research scientist that, this is normal now. I’d like to think that this is normal, this is what you can do.”