How Prof. Adam Summers Works – UW Graduate School Skip to content

How Prof. Adam Summers Works

Adam Summers, Professor, Friday Harbor Labs

Adam Summers

Department/program: Biology & School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Research focus: Biomechanics and Biomaterials

Adam Summers is known around campus as “the fish guy,” reflecting his passion for, and expertise in, all things fishy. With a focus on biomechanics in fish movement, he played a role in bringing Pixar’s most popular fish movie — Finding Nemo — to life. He earned his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Massachusetts, and, after nine years teaching at the University of California — Irvine, now runs the comparative biomechanics and biomaterials lab at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs.


Give us a one-word description of how you work:


How do you manage your to-dos?

Wunderlist. Also email ping-backs: I send an email explaining I am working on something and the person who needs it should send me an email if they don’t get it in a certain number of days.

What are your essential apps, software or tools?

Word, Chrome, Amira (a 3-D software platform for visualizing, manipulating and understanding data from multiple image modalities), Fusion 360 (a software platform for designing, engineering and manufacturing), Photoshop, Illustrator, Papers.

Where do you most often work?

In my office and lab.

How do you manage your time?

Google calendar.

What is your best time-saving shortcut?

Lots of open tabs.

What are some of your productivity strategies you’ve honed over your years in academia?

Write 750 words every day. Every single day.


What mundane thing are you really exceptional at?

Landing in a crosswind.

What are you currently reading for pleasure?

Half Resurrection Blues by Daniel Older

What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

Daughter’s self-made spelling test which included ‘Parents,’ ‘Mission’ and ‘Revenge’.

How do you recharge?

Fly small planes, snuggle with small children.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Five to eight hours in one block or three and four in two.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Make your teaching serve your research.

Who’s your support system?

My wife, kids and brother.

What pitfall do you consistently see students falling into?

Waiting to write. Write early, often and broadly. It makes writing for work less work.

What do your most successful students do?

They love morphology and poke at how things work. They tinker and make things.

How UW Works was inspired by LifeHacker’s How I Work

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