Re: Interview

From: Peter M Scheifele (
Date: Sat Jan 12 2002 - 14:52:37 EST

On Sat, 12 Jan 2002 11:07:49 -0500 "Drakes" <> writes:
Okay, you may be happy about being interviewed now, but that might change
when you see the load of questions. They shouldn't take too long to
answer though. Also, if you could please get the answers to me before
the weekend is over, that would be great. So, here are the questions:
(Please explain each answer)

Do you worry about being laid off?
[Peter's Response] There are actually no such things as "lay offs" in
this field unless you work for a commercial contractor. Its more a
matter of being able to get grants for the research. I work at a
university so I'm required to do research, publish papers in
peer-reviewed journals and teach. The number of benefactors varies
greatly according to what the nature of the research is, which issues are
"hot" at the moment and, of course, the economy. It also has a great
deal to do with the quality of your work and your findings. Bad reviews
can be deadly. I do worry somewhat about getting grants in that the
field of bioacoustics is VERY narrow with only a handful of us doing the
work. In the past, the military has been the primary benefactor for such
grants as they had the greatest interest in bats (radar) and marine
Mammals (SONAR).

They are still a very focal point in all of these issues but now
conservationists and the general public are becoming interested in issues
regarding noise and animals. From my point of view, I bring in the
medical aspects of audiology, otology, neurology and speech pathology so
as to do research that, I hope, will have profound medical results that
can be applied to humans as well. Nevertheless, it is a concern.

Do you have an opportunity to improve your wages?
[Peter's Response] Yes, but they are not exactly as one would think of
"moving up" in a company or business. Junior professors always move
towards getting tenure as a goal. With it comes benefits and increased
wages. A personal point here though, in my opinion good researchers
don't get that way because they are driven by money. Its more likely to
be the opposite; that they are driven by the research and (for those in a
university setting) by the teaching as well. I don't mean this to say
that scientists are a completely altruistic lot. We have our families
and ourselves to take care of certainly. However, no one knowingly goes
into academia and research with the notion that they are going to strike
it rich.

Do you have an opportunity to be promoted?
[Peter's Response] Yes. However, in science many times the promotion
pulls the scientist further away from the science and more into
management. In academia that may mean becoming a dean or department
head. In government or commercial sectors it may mean becoming a group
or department manager/leader. As an aside, in my experience, scientists
do not generally make good managers- a stereotype to be sure but an
experience as well.

What requirements would you have to meet to be promoted?
[Peter's Response] I'm not familiar with other areas but in academia you
must show 1- service, 2- publication and review, and 3- good teaching

Are there areas where you can continually improve your skills?
[Peter's Response] Science is an area of constant learning. By nature,
all scientists are students. One has constantly to strive to improve
research skills, clinical skills and basic knowledge.

What part time or summer jobs would you recommend to a teenager who wants
to prepare for this occupation?
[Peter's Response] In my particular field I recommend volunteering at
aquaria/zoos and conservation efforts. I also highly recommend
internships. This field is very hard to break into, especially with
regard to marine mammals. It is good to seek membership in such
organizations as AAZK- American Association of Zoo Keepers, ASA-
Acoustical Society of America, IMATA- International Marine Animal
Trainer's Association and so on.

What extra curricular or leisure time activities would you recommend?
[Peter's Response] This is highly personalized question the answer to
which will vary from individual to individual. My personal activities
1- I play ice hockey and am the goaler for two teams. I have been
playing hockey since age 8 and will continue until I cannot skate any

2- My wife and I fence.

3- I play with my children and spend time with my wife (an exotic animal

4- I read, mostly physics books and philosophical books but occasionally
 things by Leon Uris, and James Mitchener and others

5- I like to play computer games such as Myst, Riven, etc..

Do the hours or situations interfere with your plans for marriage and
(My wife wanted to put in her two cents:) [Lesa Scheifele's response]
Before I married Pete, he was in the Navy. As an oceanographer, he could
be sent anywhere for extended periods. I knew I wanted nothing to do
with marrying someone who would not see his children for potentially half
a year at a time, and I told this to Pete. I believe he had already
decided to leave the Navy, but I tried to add incentive. After getting
married, Pete started working for the university and now does research in
the Arctic and Canada, so he is still taking much for that!
But at least he has control over his research and trips, and can
sometimes take us with him. A few years ago, when our children were just
2 and 3, Pete went to the Arctic for 3 months, and was completely out of
touch except in case of extreme emergency. That was hard on all of us,
scary at times not knowing if he was OK, and the kids were too young to
understand why Daddy wasn't around or calling. I made up a large map and
we put whale stickers on it to show where Daddy was every day, but I
think it was tough on Pete when he came back and had to "patch" a little
of the relationship with the kids.

[Peter's Response] I ditto the above. Lesa IS/WAS categorically my
reason for retiring from active Naval service after 23 years. On one
hand I do miss my family, which is why these days I also do human
research and research with domestic farm animals. On the other hand, I
also do a lot of volunteer teaching at my childrens' school. This not
only allows me to be with them but to share what I've learned and it is a
source of pride for them as well (Dad's a scientist ...its kind of
neat). Nevertheless, the hours are long and not always convenient or
kind and being at sea is being at sea.

Would you choose the same occupation again?
[Peter's Response] Here's the fact for me. I LOVE MY WORK. I love
learning, doing research, lecturing, working in the field and being with
students and the animals. I've spent at least half of my life at sea and
although the sea is a harsh mistress there is nothing in the world like
being on and in the ocean. I've dived in every ocean on the planet
(including the Arctic), been in a variety of submersibles, trained dogs,
primates and whales...what's not to like?? Bringing my family on
expeditions when I can is a rare jolt of adrenalin! My kids have already
been face to face with more animals than most adults!

Given my wife's degree and occupation it enhances my work and makes our
home a uniquely stimulating place. There have been times when my
children have made comments that have turned my research toward a point
that I never even thought of! Its very cool.

Well then Peter... I hope this helps you out. It has been a pleasure.
Good luck!

Peter M."Skip" Scheifele LCDR USN (Ret.)
NURC NA&GL Director of Bioacoustic Research;
Animal Science Department,
Animal Bioacoustics/Neuroanatomy Researcher
University of Connecticut

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