Graduate Profile: Tom Ptak

Tom Ptak
Tom Ptak

High School:  Reynella East High School, Adelaide, South Australia.

Major/Degree: Geography, doctorate

What I learned: The world we currently inhabit is a complex and often misunderstood place. A world beset by misunderstanding can create fear, which at times results in tension and conflict. As a geographer, I feel a responsibility to use the knowledge I obtained through graduate school to try and make our world a more informed and hopefully better place.

Favorite memory: Meeting my wife. We were both graduate students here at the University of Oregon. Nothing will ever top that.

Favorite professor/instructor/adviser: Professor Alec Murphy. He is a mentor and role model for so many students, faculty and staff in the geography department. His commitment to graduate students is particularly inspiring. Professor Murphy sat through my entire dissertation defense with two cracked ribs which had punctured and finally collapsed his lung. He even asked some great questions. Now that’s dedication.

People might be surprised to know: I once rode my bicycle from Athens, Greece, over 4,000 miles through the Middle East to Cairo, Egypt. A lot of hard work but an amazing experience that I will never forget.

What it means to be a Duck: To me, being a Duck means having a genuine concern for more than your own surroundings. The University of Oregon has one of the highest rates of Peace Corps applications in the entire country, along with strong service learning and environmental programs. I feel this is great illustration of what it means to be a Duck.   

What I did for fun: I spent much of my spare time climbing the Cascade Mountains, particularly Mount Hood. Standing on its summit is such an incredible experience and helped me survive the rigors of graduate school.

What’s next: My goal is to stay in academia and continue researching energy and China, while further developing my skills as an educator. I never want to stop exploring and learning. The world is an amazing place and there is too much to see in just one lifetime, but why not try?

Visit "Meet the Class of 2016" for all profiles published to date. 

A gif of Tom Ptak