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John Tolli

John TolliJohn Tolli, Ph.D.

Congratulations are in order for Dr. John Tolli, a former SWC biology student who successfully defended his doctoral dissertation this summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute. He earned his Ph.D. in Marine Microbiology with a dissertation topic entitled “Identity and Dynamics of the Microbial Community Responsible for Carbon Monoxide Oxidation in Marine Environments.

John, whom everyone calls Tolli, began his studies at SWC in Fall 1990, earning a Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificate. He then began working towards a degree in nursing, and was employed by a local ambulance service.

A funny thing happened along the way, however – the SCIENCE bug bit him!

Soon Tolli was a college work-study student in Biology, maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He received his Associate’s of Science (A.S.). degree in Spring, 1992. He was one of the first students to participate in Bridges to the Future, an enrichment program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Tolli received a Student of Distinction Award (SODA) from SWC in 1993.

TolliAfter transferring to San Diego State in Spring,1994, Tolli so impressed their Biology professors that by Fall,1994, he was awarded the Howard Hughes Research Fellowship. This prestigious award provides financial support of $10,000 per year for two years and includes an internship in a research laboratory, enrichment courses, and much more.

Tolli spent two summers conducting research as an intern at Wood’s Hole in Cape Cod, Mass., studying how nutrients are cycled as a result of biological activity in shallow waters. Thereafter John was awarded an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate Students and spent 40 days as an intern on an ice-breaker ship traveling to Antarctica on a trip sponsored by the Scripps Institute of Technology. The purpose of the study was to determine the abundance and distribution of plankton in the frozen ocean, so John spent many a day in sub-zero conditions while he collected specimens. Even considering these harsh elements, John would gladly do it again.

Tolli graduated from SDSU in 1997 with a major in Biology and was accepted immediately into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a graduate student in Marine Biology. He was awarded a three year scholarship from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and an additional two year scholarship from MIT that covered tuition, fees and a provided a sizable monthly stipend.

Tolli's FamilyTolli was awarded his Ph.D. in the summer of 2003 – after quite an academic odyssey! He is now teaching Marine Biology at Northeastern University.

In addition to his academic accomplishments, John is married, the father of a three year old son, and is soon to be a father again.

We’re So Proud of You, Tolli!


Southwestern College