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University of Michigan School of Information


Faces of UMSI: Kathleen Fear

Katherine Fear

“Be open to change and accept that your research goals may shift over time as new interests and opportunities arise.”

That’s the advice that Kathleen Fear shared with incoming doctoral students and her own academic career is a perfect case in point.

Though she worked in the Yale library throughout most of her undergraduate program, Kathleen was a physics major who had no intention of pursuing information studies. That all changed when, in her senior year, she was hired as a preservation assistant in the Historical Library of the Yale Medical School.

“I was working really hard on my senior thesis in physics,” she remembers, “and at the same time, I was working in preservation – and decided I was much more interested in the latter.” She was drawn to Michigan because, at the time she was evaluating graduate schools, UMSI had just added the preservation of information specialization. She decided to stay on in the doctoral program because her experience as an intern at Iowa State University led her to realize the need for solid research in digital preservation.

Her work focuses on how to preserve research data for the long term and make it accessible for scientists to repurpose for new kinds of research. Her research is supported by an NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship to train doctoral students in open data sharing and data reuse in e-science at the University of Michigan.

In 2012, Kathleen received the Gary M. Olson Outstanding Ph.D. Student award. Named for former UMSI dean and professor emeritus Gary M. Olson, the annual award recognizes progress in the program, achievements in publications and presentations, and service to fellow students.

“One of the best things about Michigan is that you have the freedom and flexibility to pursue interests outside your area of specialization. In fact, you’re encouraged to do so," she says.

 Her doctoral advisory committee members were Beth Yakel, chair; Margaret Hedstrom; Eytan Adar; and George Alter. She received her PhD in December, 2013.

This student has graduated! This information was accurate at the time of publication.