The Spirit of the Grant Harris Fellowship
The Grant Harris Fellowship was conceived in 2009 by METER‘s (formerly Decagon Devices) marketing group as an opportunity for METER to give back to the science community. The idea was to create a partnership between METER and researchers so that we could provide instrumentation and be a kind of “scientific friend” to graduate students: giving them experience crafting a proposal, reviewing their ideas, offering feedback, and encouraging those projects that seemed the most promising and exciting to us as scientists.
When we thought about this opportunity we wondered…who would we name this fellowship after? It was an easy decision when we realized that the principles upon which METER is based come from academia through our founder, retired soil science professor Gaylon Campbell and his father-in-law, Grant Harris, who was a professor and department head of Rangeland Ecology at Washington State University.
Grant Harris started his career at the beginning of the depression, so when he got married he quickly needed to find a way to support his growing family. At that time in history, there was not as much college funding or support. Instead of having the opportunity to attend graduate school, Dr. Harris was forced to start work immediately after obtaining his B.S. for the U.S. Forest Service, managing rangeland in Montana. He lived in a tiny outpost of a house, taking care of sheep-grazing rangeland in a high alpine meadow area, far removed from civilization.
“Scientific Instrumentation has made a lot of progress since I was first exposed to research, working at the Desert Range Experiment Station in 1935 as an undergraduate at Utah State University. Back then research was 3 parts wits, 6 parts labor, and 1 part instrumentation. I still remember in 1939 measuring the absorption of water into the soil profile using old whisky bottles and corks.
It is amazing to see the time and labor saving devices now available. We are proud of Decagon’s heritage in producing instrumentation for soil physics.” – Grant Harris
It was only later, after five years of service in the U.S. Navy during WWII, that he finally got the chance to further his education. He returned to school to earn an M.S. and a PhD, and because of his difficult path in obtaining those degrees, he placed a high value on education and an even greater value on the providing of opportunities for research.
During his career, Dr. Harris was able to reach out and touch the lives of many students, not only in the U.S. but from all over the world. He spent time in other countries researching and helping to provide basic science to people throughout his career as a rangeland ecologist. The Grant Harris Fellowship provides that same learning opportunity for graduate students today where, in the spirit of this legacy that Grant Harris provided, we continue his passion for encouraging research in a direction that will help us understand more about the natural environment.
Colin Campbell, Decagon’s VP of Research and Development commented on the “Spirit of Grant Harris,” during a recent interview. “As we thought about this opportunity to give back to the research community, we thought of my grandpa, who had a great passion for providing people the chance to learn and grow through the beauty of science. Thus the objective of the Harris Fellowship is to provide student researchers additional opportunities to dream up new ways of doing things that are going to be successful and also to provide support to those researchers so they can accomplish their goals.”
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