This interview series is focused on the graduate student experience across all STEM fields that allows them to get their research, or corresponding graduate coursework, out in front of a large global audience and share their experiences in graduate school. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of STEM students to pursue graduate studies for a myriad of disciplines, and we hope you enjoy reading these amazing stories! If you'd like to be featured in this series, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, Subject Line: Grad Student Highlights Interest!
Timmis Maddox teaching at the Sorte Muld archaeological site on Bornholm, Denmark 2021. (Credit: Timmis Maddox)
Timmis Maddox is an anthropologist and PhD Candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This comes after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from James Madison University followed by a Master of Arts in Prehistoric Archaeology from Durham University. Maddox has been studying prehistoric societies in Scandinavia for approximately 10 years, with a focus on how developing communities both interact with, and shape, the surrounding environment.
“I have always been interested in ancient European history,” says Maddox. “Even as a kid, you could never keep me away from the library, where you would often find me nose-deep in a textbook. For a long time, the question for me was what specific aspect of European history I wanted to focus on. I was always interested in not only ancient Rome, but also the communities and nations they interacted with. It wasn’t until I managed to go and study in Europe that I was able to narrow down what I wanted to do, specifically my current passion of mapping out the development of the Scandinavian communities that eventually became the Vikings!”
Maddox says he realized the importance of attending graduate school since a graduate degree is necessary to advance as far as possible in the field of anthropology. While he stresses that people can be successful without a graduate degree, he also notes that a number of higher paying academic positions possess stringent graduate requirements.
Timmis Maddox on campus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2021. (Credit: Timmis Maddox)
“I also wanted to be able to spread my research far and wide, but you need to be pretty high up on the academic ladder to be taken seriously (at least that’s the message university gives you),” Maddox explains.
Maddox says a few things in his PhD program attracted him, to include his advisor, Dr. Bettina Arnold, who he refers to as an “excellent mentor and very well known in my field.” He says he wanted to learn from her to allow himself the best chance to succeed, and also notes that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offered to pay his full tuition and provided a stipend, which he said was especially appealing, as he says he was taught to not attend a graduate program that won’t fund you.
In terms of graduate student challenges, Maddox says that mental health is a worse issue for graduate students than financial challenges, noting the lack of hospitality in academia.
“As it is right now, it encourages a lot of competition rather than collaboration,” says Maddox. “This atmosphere of rivalry can really take its toll on anyone, even the most ambitious and hardworking student. That is why I believe it is so important for grad students to regularly check and care for themselves—whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally.”
Timmis Maddox presenting at a symposium concerning the Iron Age Sorte Muld settlement complex 2022. (Credit: Timmis Maddox)
As far as after completing his PhD, Maddox says he’s not letting himself get too far ahead in terms of planning for the future, noting the status of the current job market. He cites the limited and competitive jobs in academia, along with the lower pay and working conditions in industry. He says this is why he has been obtaining skillsets in disciplines outside of anthropology in order to better set himself up for success upon graduation.
In the long-term, Maddox says he aspires to live independently and travel while excavating sites and getting published.
“What is most important to me is knowledge, so I see myself using all of my skills to contribute to human history,” Maddox explains. “I also want to see the information I develop be put to practical use, so much of my research will be designed towards trying to understand the complex relationship between human communities and the environment and using my understanding of this relationship to help modern communities preserve the world we live in today.”
As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!