|Even in retirement, biological sciences Professor Peter Castro hopes to inspire the next generation of environmentally conscious students through scholarships and a visiting scholar-in-residence program.|
He frequently travels internationally to present his findings, further his research or serve as a visiting scholar. In March, he spoke at a conference in Brazil on the symbiotic relationship between crabs and reef corals. This past spring, he was in Paris working with deep-water crabs collected in Madagascar, New Guinea and French Polynesia.
"I don't think of myself as 'retired,' just not having to drive to Cal Poly Pomona every day!" he says.
Castro's marine biology research began during his undergraduate years, inspired by his mentor at the University of Puerto Rico. It's a passion that Castro still hopes to pass on to a younger generation of students.
Like his mentor, Castro set a high bar for excellence.
"Good students who appreciate a hard professor loved him and understood the value of the high standards that Dr. Castro set for them," says Sepehr Eskandari, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Cal Poly Pomona. "He is a true scholar. He has devoted his entire life to his scholarship and his field. Few people have the passion, desire and willpower to do the same." Eskandari adds that even in retirement, Castro has remained a prolific scholar.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Castro says a high school field trip to a marine lab sparked his interest in marine biology. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, and pursued master's and doctoral degrees in marine zoology at the University of Hawaii. His tenure at Cal Poly Pomona began in 1972. In addition to publishing 52 scientific papers, Castro has served as a visiting scholar and researcher in Spain, Italy, Australia, France, and Ukraine, where he was a Fulbright Scholar at Odessa State University.
One of Castro's most notable achievements is co-authoring the textbook "Marine Biology." Widely used at the college level, the textbook is in its eighth edition and has been translated into Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Greek and soon into Korean and Portuguese.
Even in retirement, Castro hopes to inspire environmentally conscious students to pursue research projects that benefit the natural world. He recently signed a $1.5 million bequest — the largest gift to the College of Science — to endow an environmental science scholarship, as well as establish an environmental science scholar-in-residence.
The bequest came a few months after a generous $147,000 donation Castro made to establish the environmental science scholarship. The Rachel Carson Environmental Science Scholarship, named after the American biologist and conservationist who started the modern environmental movement, provides two $10,000 scholarships per year to support two undergraduate or graduate student researchers. The purpose is to support outstanding Cal Poly Pomona students who conduct active, original and independent research on projects dealing with the preservation and enhancement of the natural environment.
"Science is research. To be a scientist you really must be actively involved in doing hands-on research," Castro says. "That's the way I started. It opens a view of the world and gives you experiences."
The scholar-in-residence program will bring in visiting faculty for teaching and research. "To have somebody come from another country would be a very prestigious thing for Cal Poly Pomona," Castro says. "Some of the large universities — UCLA and USC — normally receive many scholars-in-residence."
Castro's bequest sets a historic precedent for the biological sciences department, Eskandari says, enabling the department to attract internationally known experts who would enrich the educational experience of students interested in the environmental sciences, as well as further enhance the intellectual life of the department. "We indeed owe him a great deal of gratitude," he says.
The College of Science offers the full spectrum of scientific inquiry in seven fields and has pre-professional programs for students entering medical, dental, veterinary, biotechnology and other health careers.
Ensuring permanent access to premier scholars is the lead campaign goal of the college. This includes support for endowed chairs and a postdoctoral fellowship fund.
Brian Jersky, Dean
Loren Oranski, Director of Development