Gale B. Carey

Jean Brierly Award for Excellence in Teaching

Professor of Nutritional Sciences
College of Life Sciences and Agriculture

Model behavior


Gale Carey

In silence is born our capacity to wonder, and from this, to experience "moments of awe, of creativity, of deep understanding." This is the message Gale Carey delivers to 700 honors students gathered in the Whittemore Center for the 2005 Honors Convocation. As keynote speaker, Carey's charge is to send these high-achievers off with a final lesson to live by. "You've sought out opportunities to write theses, conduct research, compose music, paint still life, live in another culture, act, sculpt," she says. "Always keep within yourself a quiet place, away from the din and demands you'll face, where you can create, connect, or integrate."

Carey, professor of animal and nutritional sciences, enjoys worldwide recognition in the field of metabolism. She has authored dozens of scientific papers on the way in which lifestyles, especially diet and exercise, influence fat tissue and metabolism and our ability to gain and lose weight, down to the cellular level. Her nationally funded studies have earned her invitations to speak at international conferences from Chicago to Copenhagen.

She educates the public at a scientific and grassroots level about healthy lifestyle choices at a time when the "obesity epidemic" has emerged as a chronic health concern in a "super-sized" nation. "When I was a graduate student, a woman on a bus asked me what I did," reflects Carey. "When I told her I was a doctoral candidate in nutritional science, she asked me to recommend a good diet. I said, ’Well, I don’t study that kind of nutrition.’ As I heard myself talking, I began to think, 'Well, that's not very responsible! I can't defend my little research area and ignore the rest.'"

So Carey studied books, magazines, newspapers—anything she could find on "popular" nutrition. The result? The same "hard scientist" who addresses an international conference in Copenhagen one month, speaks on diet and exercise to a gym full of local middle school athletes the next.

But this doesn't explain why Carey is addressing the students on this day. She is here because she has earned the reputation as one of the University’s most prodigious mentors of student researchers—dozens, most of them undergraduates, and many of them women—in her laboratory in Kendall Hall. Today, many remember her tall, elegant figure moving from poster to poster at the recent Undergraduate Research Conference, stopping to chat, ask a few questions, and beam her wide smile as she listens intently to the answers.

They also remember the challenging road to achievement, "wondering why the test tube in their right hand was blue, while the one in their left was clear; puzzling over obesity data that didn't make sense."

Teachers and parents, it is said, "model" values and behavior more than teach it. So what values and behavior are modeled by Carey, who has run the Boston Marathon, plays viola with her daughter Sarah in the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra, and spends Mother's Days birding with her family on Plum Island?

A woman busily at home in the world, with a room of her own where the longing between musical notes is sweet, where Johnny Damon is always smacking a home run, and where a gifted scientist and her toddler son are heading home on Route 4, sunset streaming pink and peach through the car window, "amazed out of time" as they contemplate being alive together on a planet spinning 1,000 miles per hour as it hurtles through space.

—David Moore