46: Tiernan Armstrong-Ingram



Program and Year of Study

PhD, 2ndyear

Previous degrees and colleges

MA Philosophy, Simon Fraser University

BS Philosophy, Portland State University

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland but grew up in South Bend, Indiana.

Where do you live now?

Davis, CA

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Eating? Hotdogger. Drinking? Super Owl. Other stuff? I go to events at the Mondavi Center as often as I can.

How do you relax?

I read detective novels and cook with my wife, Angela. I would say hiking with my dogs, Quincy and Eleanor, but there’s nothing relaxing about my dogs.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

The Crossing, the 18th novel in the Bosch series (21 books in total) by Michael Connelly

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

I don’t have the patience for TV shows, but my wife hadn’t seen the Harry Potter movies, so we’re going through those.

Research interests

I’m primarily interested in philosophy of biology. In particular, I’m interested in the ways that studies of animal behavior are used to make inferences about the evolution of cognition and cooperation. I’m also interested in the roles that models and representations play in science.

Dissertation title or topic

Still working that one out…

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

Science is about as difficult to define as art. Ask two practitioners of either and you’re likely to get drastically different answers. Yet we human beings are startlingly good at both.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

Professor Louise Collins at Indiana University once said to me, “Just because everyone does something one way, that doesn’t mean you have to.” That advice got me to where I am now.

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution by Elisabeth Lloyd. It’s such incendiary subject matter that many readers fail to recognize its exceptional critique of social and scientific biases at work.

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

Roberta Millstein does excellent work that touches on lots of different areas – population genetics, ecology, and environmental ethics, just to name a few. I admire her ability to move between and among topics in her work.

I also really admire Jeff Schank’s work in agent-based modeling to understand the rules that produce cooperative animal behavior.

What's the best thing about being a grad student?

Professor Sandy Patrick of Lewis & Clark Law School once said to me, “I teach for free, they pay me to grade.” The best part about being a grad student is that I get to introduce students to philosophy of science and philosophy of biology.

What's the worst?

Grading (see above)

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be working on, and writing about, racing cars.

Finally, please ask yourself a question

Hey, you’re a philosopher! What’s the meaning of life?

Great question! Though this is often considered THE philosophical question, very few academic philosophers ever talk about it. Well, philosophers of biology do, but their question is more like “What’s the definition of ‘life’?” The answer to the philosophical question is probably something like: If you want a meaningful life, find something that is more important than yourself and dedicate your life to that.


—April 2018


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