As a liberal arts institution, Tufts University offers students the opportunity to indulge their diverse curiosities and academic interests. For second-semester Master of Philosophy student Mikel Moyer, his time at Tufts continues his journey back to school after working in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years.
Moyer graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in chemistry in 1981. After earning his doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, Moyer worked as a medicinal chemist.
“I have worked in various therapeutic areas [such as] immunology, inflammation, cancer research [and] a bit of psychiatric illness,” Moyer said. “And so, as a medicinal chemist, you can apply your chemistry skills to a variety of different therapeutic areas.”
After years of working in pharmaceutical companies, Moyer retired in 2015. Unsure of his future plans, Moyer had the opportunity to explore his interest in reading, particularly in the area of history.
“I was reading the story, but there was no systematic element to it, and I didn’t really expect to retain that much or learn that much,” Moyer said. “I kind of started looking for ways to learn more efficiently.”
Moyer’s desire to learn led him to the second-degree bachelor’s program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, a desirable location since he had lived with his wife in Boston since 2009. This program allowed Moyer to obtain a degree in history while having a general diploma. educational requirements met by his first baccalaureate. After taking a course on social and political thinkers, however, he turned to philosophy.
“I decided to take a single philosophy course on social and political thinkers simply because I was interested in it and had no background in history or philosophy since graduating from Michigan,” Moyer said. “And I ended up really liking the philosophy class, and so I went on to major in philosophy, minor in history.”
Moyer and his wife then established the Dr. Nelson P. Lande Endowed Student Support Fund, named after one of Moyer’s professors at UMass Boston, to help students in financial need. generals.
“It’s about helping students who are food insecure or… [if] they have financial needs just to exist,” Moyer said. “We wanted to support this program, and that’s what we did.”
Moyer’s interest in philosophy and his career in chemistry do not overlap much, mainly because Moyer was not as interested in chemistry after his retirement. However, Moyer identified a slight connection between the two disciplines.
“In organic chemistry…there’s kind of a logical flow where you have to think from whatever starting material you start with to the end product,” Moyer said. “Similarly, there is a logical thought process in philosophy that one can follow, and so in a very broad sense there are some similarities.”
After earning her second bachelor’s degree, Moyer applied to graduate philosophy programs in the Boston area and accepted a position at Tufts. Even though Moyer has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and is in his second semester at Tufts, he still feels like a newbie in philosophy.
“I still feel like a baby in philosophy, I mean I’ve barely scratched the surface,” Moyer said.
Although Moyer feels he has a lot to learn, he has acquired new skills through his training in philosophy. For example, philosophy has reshaped its way of approaching the world around it by improving its ability to admire different arguments.
“I learned that you can appreciate an argument even if you disagree with the conclusion the argument comes to, and I think that’s a helpful perspective,” Moyer said.
Since part of philosophy is taking apart a philosopher’s arguments, Moyer thinks the ability to think through arguments logically is an important skill that can be applied in the real world.
“There are… parts of the philosophy that can be applied to relevant issues today,” Moyer said. “For example, philosophical discussions about accountability, punishment, play a role in how we think about incarceration and rehabilitation and important issues like that.”
At the same time, Moyer acknowledges that some philosophical arguments are further removed from everyday life.
“There are also parts of philosophy that are very abstract and esoteric and finding a correlation to everyday life is difficult,” Moyer said.
Additionally, Moyer believes that completing the philosophy readings for her classes has improved her ability to concentrate.
“The ability to focus and concentrate for reasonably extended periods of time is something very important in philosophy,” Moyer said. “Sometimes we don’t practice that very often in today’s world.”
Although he enjoyed his training in philosophy, Moyer was initially anxious to pick up the pace of study after his many years in the workforce. Fortunately, Moyer likes to do the readings and write articles. Rather, he was challenged to start as a rookie in a new field after many years of working in the pharmaceutical industry.
“At the end of a 30-year career in the same field, you develop a certain expertise, a certain experience, you know the problems in a way, you have a vision of things based on knowledge and experience”, Moyer said. “And coming back from there to being a baby was an adjustment, it’s quite humbling actually, which isn’t a bad thing for a student.”
Moyer sees value in the writing skills learned through the study of philosophy, which can be applied to many different areas of work and study.
“Thinking about how to present your argument to respond to any criticisms you anticipate someone might have of your argument and responding to those criticisms…is good practice for many different styles of writing skills,” Moyer said.
Back in school, Moyer felt his teachers were crucial to his studies in philosophy.
“It takes someone who really knows the area to help me understand the meaning of what I read, so it was extremely valuable,” Moyer said. “I was lucky to have excellent teachers to help me understand the material.”