To get to know our new faculty and staff a little better, we asked them to answer a few questions from the Proust Questionnaire — the famous questionnaire that Vanity Fair asks celebrities to answer on its back page. Today, we introduce Adam Pearson '13, who teaches Upper School Science and Robotics. Pearson earned his bachelor's degree in Physics and Computer Science from Boston University and his master's degree in Physics from the University of Southern California.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Food. I will go to great lengths to try new cuisines, dishes, etc. and have been known to eat quite extravagantly. I come from a long line of bakers, so food has always been a central part of my family. I've gone ahead and turned that into a life philosophy that effectively boils down to: "Eating is what keeps us alive. So, if you're not enjoying eating to its fullest, then you're not enjoying living to its fullest."
I also believe food is one of the easiest ways to engage and connect with people of all walks of life and cultures. For us animals, eating is one of the most vulnerable and potentially dangerous activities to engage in — you really need to let your guard down. So, sitting down to a meal with others is quite a wonderful way to show that you trust them. If the food being eaten is reflective of the cultures and environments within which those eating it were raised or live now, then you've got what I'd say is one of the most beautiful ceremonies humans can engage in. I mean, who doesn't love a good meal!
What is your current state of mind?
Happy and excited. I have spent the last few years working on some really cool stuff. I've gotten the chance to work with some of the brightest minds in the world to answer some of the deepest questions we've been able to ask as a species. I learned an immense amount and still keep in touch with many of these wonderful people. There was just one problem: I wasn't really happy. Now, I get to wake up, hop into a classroom, and discuss all realms of the STEM fields and more with extremely bright students. I also get to discuss these topics and how to teach them with a wonderful group of teachers, many of whom I owe this much of my success and happiness to since I was a student here myself. So, I'm happy to have found a job I wake up excited to do and am excited to do a job that makes me happy.
What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and kindness. I tend to believe that no one is fully self-aware. There is simply too much going on in our heads and in the world for anyone to fully know everything that is happening or has happened. To me, friends are at their best when they're helping fill in these gaps of awareness or understanding. Oftentimes, people have trouble hearing that they've misunderstood or been ignorant of something. A friend is a person that you can trust to tell you when this has happened simply because they care, which makes it a whole lot easier to take. I also believe a friend does all of this in as kind and considerate a way as possible. Anyone can see a flaw or problem and tell you or others, but it takes a real friend to be both direct and loving.
Who are your favorite writers?
This one will be tough to narrow down! The first few that come to mind are Herman Hesse, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, Albert Camus ... I just started looking at the list of books I've read on Goodreads and realized I would probably want to write down at least 50 authors. To answer a little more generally, I enjoy writers that take advantage of fiction's ability to put a mirror up to reality by showing what it isn't. This particularly speaks to me in the case of science fiction, which I tend to think of as fiction with science as one of the main characters. I appreciate when authors have a well-honed style, particularly if it's more poetic than not. Ray Bradbury really hits this note for me, particularly in The Martian Chronicles. Most of all, I enjoy when I can feel the author emotionally or intellectually (or both) in their writing. I'd say all of the authors I mentioned above do this particularly well.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Anthony Bourdain, Richard Feynman, David Bowie, and Carole King. I could list many more but will keep it at that. Here's a little list of the reasons I admire these people:
Anthony Bourdain was the first person I saw to not only acknowledge but also to truly embody and live the philosophy I discussed with regards to food. He had a big mouth, a bigger stomach, and an even bigger heart. He cared so deeply about food as a means of communication and sharing in the deepest sense. He was also entirely unafraid to say exactly what he thought. This wasn't because he thought he was right and everyone should know, but because he knew he could be wrong and wanted to know others to share their experiences.
Richard Feynman was a rather similar figure, but in the realm of physics. He was an amazing teacher and very much part of why I decided to study physics. In fact, Mr. (Jamison) Smith was the person to turn me on to him years ago by suggesting Six Easy Pieces! I have a beautiful set of Feynman's lectures that I'm keeping in the Robotics Lab for anyone interested in checking them out.
David Bowie was just such a cool dude. He was goofy and intelligent and serious all at once. He turned strangeness and a sense of otherness into an art form that I think speaks to the other in all of us. Listening to his music has changed me in deeply wonderful and bizarre ways.
Carole King — what a woman! She wrote some of the most beautiful, genuine, and simply human lyrics and compositions out there. Her music mercilessly and directly strikes the heart, but in a way that leaves you feeling loved. I listened to her music a tremendous amount growing up and was absolutely delighted to see the musical about her life: Beautiful. This really solidified for me how important and beautiful a person Carole has been in my life and many others' all along.
I admire people who think for themselves, cut to the truth with precision, but love and respect everyone enough to go the extra mile and do it kindly.
US Science and Robotics Faculty Adam Pearson '13.