International Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Darren R. Grafius

Dr. Darren R. Grafius is originally from East Lansing, Michigan, and graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 with a degree in geography. Today, he resides in the United Kingdom, where he moved to be with his partner, and now works as a post-doctoral research fellow at Cranfield University. The focus of his work is conducting environmental modeling and ecosystem services assessment as part of a government-funded consortium project studying biodiversity in urban landscapes.

One major takeaway from his experience at Iowa was learning that “conducting fieldwork is always more awkward and logistically complicated than you think it will be—but incredibly rewarding once you’ve made it work.”

Between studies, Grafius loved spending time on the steps behind the Old Capitol building, overlooking the parkland and the Iowa River—it was something he found peaceful and open when he needed a break.


"My doctoral thesis focused on climate change and alpine treelines, so I did my fieldwork in Glacier National Park, Montana. You won't find mountains that spectacular in Iowa, but all the same I found Iowa City a wonderfully friendly and peaceful place and I'm glad to have lived there."

But when the time came to work hard, Grafius is most thankful to have worked with Professor George Malanson, his doctoral thesis adviser.

“His wisdom, knowledge, and drive, coupled with a friendly and laid-back demeanor, struck the right balance for helping see me through my Ph.D. program,” he said.

“He knew when to push me and when to use a gentle touch. I needed time to learn my way through things, and a different adviser might not have understood this and caused me too much stress to continue.”

Ultimately, he said the best part of being at Iowa was being able to find and develop himself, both personally and professionally.

“It was a growing experience for me, living far from home and learning how to conduct my own research projects, while growing into a capable scientist.”

Virtual Homecoming is a chance to share memories from your time at the UI and reconnect with your alma mater, regardless of where you are in the world. During International Education Week 2016 (Nov. 14-18), we will be sharing some of these alumni stories.

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