As a prospective graduate student in the spring of 2001, I first met Professor Bruce Bridgeman during my visit to UC Santa Cruz. He kindly gave a presentation on the psychology of vision. During his lab tour, he showed me various fascinating illusions in visual and spatial perception before explaining the underlying principles of these phenomena. Afterwards, he talked to me about graduate school and research. His passion for science was inspiring.
Later that year, upon my arrival for the start of Fall Quarter, I attended an orientation followed by a gathering, during which Bruce sang with students. Others informed me that Professor Bridgeman and Professor Massaro, both renowned experts with decades of academic experience, would together teach my first graduate-level course in cognitive psychology. Awestruck by their accomplishments, I looked-up to them and wanted to become a professor like them. Bruce’s sense of humor helped create a relaxing atmosphere that made me less nervous.
Throughout the years, I enjoyed talking with and learning from Professor Bridgeman. At colloquiums, seminars, classes, and office hours, he often had insightful and interesting comments. At times, he talked about educational policy or social issues. During lunches, he fondly recalled stories about his daughters using toy trucks to play conversation games, going to schools, and becoming lawyers. It was clear that Bruce was a very proud father.
Although Professor Bridgeman was not my advisor, he was willing to help me. For example, when I was examining research on singing behavior, he agreed to sing in the lab for my project. Also, he was on my qualifying-exam committee, offering enlightening comments that improved my work. Moreover, Bruce provided in-depth knowledge on the history of science as well as academic wisdom in regards to the scientific community.
I never did become a professor; since graduating from UC Santa Cruz, I have been teaching high-school students. During my subsequent visits over the years, Professor Bridgeman shared reminiscences and conversations with me about various topics. Last year (in 2015), he was a guest speaker in my summer camp for high-school students. He could debunk myths and instill wonder at the same time. In his lab tour, he showed the same patience and enthusiasm as what I first witnessed back in 2001.
Following his presentation, we went to eat lunch on-campus, just like when I was in graduate school. Then, after Professor Bridgeman left on his bicycle, I took a good look back at the Psychology Department, one that he helped to build through his research, teaching, and service. My last image of Bruce was that of a smiling scientist who took the time to inspire high-school students. But beyond science, he also taught me the value of human kindness, something that could not be learned from any journal article or textbook.