He Blinded Me With Science: Peter Southam – Mad Scientist

October 19, 2016

Faculty Spotlight: Peter Southam

To say Peter Southam leads a busy and varied life doesn’t do him justice. Yes, he’s the Science Department Chair, and yes, he is the head coach of the road cycling team at Gould. He built the mountain biking team, from the ground up, into one of the most successful programs in New England. But it doesn’t end there.

He is Vice Chairman of the Bethel Board of Selectmen, is involved with both Mahoosuc Pathways and the Bethel Outing Club, and he plays the baritone horn in the Mahoosuc Community Band in his spare time.

Always environmentally conscious, Pete drives an electric car, and he and his wife Sarah live in a home they built themselves, complete with a solar array. This list is not exhaustive, and yet, he also managed to raise two children, both graduates of Gould, Samantha ’12 and Max ’15.

Environmental Science

Mr. Southam’s biology class takes a hands-on approach to science, looking at forest health indicators in a long-term environmental study.

When asked “Why Gould?” for himself, and his family, he had this to say:

“Gould is a really fun place. It is a school that embraces the outdoors, the active, and the intellectual without letting any one upset the balance. I have taught at several other independent schools, and of all of them, I am happiest that my own children got to go to Gould.”

He has a reputation among his students for being something of a mad scientist. The real world questions he dreams up and poses to his classes are both infamously hysterical and notoriously insurmountable:

  • How many bricks does it take to build the field house?

  • How much paper is lost from wood chips that blow out of the back of a truck in transit?

  • How much money could be saved if Bicycle stopped including the jokers in their decks of cards?

Students may feign apathy, but they continue to surprise him with creative solutions that he himself would have never thought of.

In the end, whether in the classroom or in the saddle, it’s all about working with students.

“When it comes right down to it, wherever I am on campus, it’s [about] working with kids. I love walking into my classroom, the kids are there, and we can just start a discussion. It’s an awful lot of fun. They’re really interesting people.”

Is Mr. Southam really a mad scientist?
Read his Q & A below, and you decide:

Peter Southam

High School: Pomfret School

College/Grad School: B.A. Dartmouth College | M.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Proudest Achievement: Getting my children through to adulthood.

Last book I read: McDonalds, Behind the Arches by

My soundtrack is: Elvis Costello and pretty much anything from the 80’s

Movie I would recommend: The Blues Brothers (1980)

Favorite food: Chinese, or whatever I happen to be eating especially if it contains sugar and chocolate.

One word that describes me: Curious

Best advice I ever received: Don’t eat anything bigger than your head.

What’s the last thing you crossed off your bucket list?
Strangely enough, it was buying a bucket truck. Now I can install solar panels on every roof in Maine in my spare time.

Environmental Science

Mr. Southam and his son Max ’15 at the conclusion of the Tour Divide, a 2,700+ mile bike trek spanning from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.


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