He’s with the band
Ph.D. student committed to public health and Gator spirit
By Rebecca Burton
Those who have never met Eric Soule, M.P.H., a current Ph.D. student in the College of Public Health and Health Professions department of behavioral science and community health, would probably think he was a music major.
For a good part of the last decade, the 27-year-old has played the saxophone in the Gator Pep Band, performing at a BSC football National Championship, two NCAA basketball National Championship games, and at countless UF basketball games, volleyball matches and gymnastics meets.
Although Soule is a superb musician who played six instruments in high school, he decided to take a different route when he moved to Florida from Michigan at age 17.
Soule got his bachelor’s in anthropology instead of formally studying music.
But even though he did not study music as an undergraduate, he still made band a top priority. His wife, Morgan, an occupational therapist with UF Health, might have had something to do with that. The two saxophone players met while Soule was a junior and she was a freshman.
But his band director, Chip Birkner, always wanted him to be a music major.
“He has such great talent and I think you would just assume he was a music major by the way he played and the way he speaks about music,” Birkner said. “He’s very educated and has a wonderful ear, so musically he’s outstanding.”
Members of Soule’s department think so too, since he has performed at the holiday party for the past three years.
Even with the demands of graduate school, he has kept music in his life by being one the longest-serving members of the Gator Pep Band.
“It was scary to find out I’ve been in the basketball band for almost 10 years,” Soule said with a laugh. “I’ve seen people’s entire undergraduate careers.”
After graduating with his bachelor’s, Soule briefly got involved with HIV training at the Alachua County Health Department where his wife’s father is the HIV/AIDS program director. He was interested in studying risky sex behaviors, and from that point, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in public health.To save money, he started working construction for a friend; he calls that year “one of the most interesting times of my life.”
After the year of swinging hammers, Soule was accepted into the Master of Public Health program and worked with Tracey Barnett, Ph.D., studying risky adolescent behaviors, in particular, smoking hookah. The third-year Ph.D. student is continuing that research as part of his dissertation.
“He’s an excellent researcher, he gets things done not just on time, but in advance,” Barnett said. “He’s a very meticulous student. He just contributes a lot. You can ask him to do anything and he will get it done.”
“In the end we’re trying to decrease people making bad decisions,” Soule said.
Soule only has a year left until graduation. He doesn’t know where his first job as a college professor will be, but he is confident he is going to continue playing music, maybe in a community band. He doesn’t know if a university band would suit a professor.
“It would be weird to have a professor assigning homework and tests and then seeing them at practice,” Soule said. “But there will always be a way to keep music in my life.”