Subject: Careers

Phillip J. Clapham (
Sun, 17 Oct 1999 08:55:51 -0400 (EDT)

Here are my answers to your questions, such as they are:
1) Actually, I'm in PhD, which is Doctor of Philosophy (despite the name
it's the most common doctorate in the sciences, of all kidsn, and also
arts).	Doctor of Science is another qualification, which is actually
higher (not many people go for it, and it isn't that common that schools
offer it - it's sometimes conferred as an honor rather than as part of a
degree program per se).  Anyway, I did my PhD at the University of
Aberdeen, Scotland.  Topic was "Social and reproductive biology of North
Atlantic humpback whale."
2) Hobbies: yes, I do get to incorporate them.	I love to sail, and to be
at sea generally; and working with whales allows me to do this.  I also
like to write, which is very helpful since publishing is a large part of
being a scientist.  Hobbies I don't get to practise in my job: reading
fiction (although some of the papers I read may as well be!), cooking
Italian food (tho have done it on sailboats in the field).
3) Passion is not necessary to be a scientist, but it's essential if you
want to be a good one.	I can't imagine anyone being really good at their
job if they're not passionate about what they do.  And it's particularly
important in conservation of endangered species.
4) My favorite parts of my job are: a) being at sea with whales; and b)
constantly being challenged by the science.  It's rather like being paid to
play and think.
5) Do I ever get bored?  Only when I have to do administrative parts of my
work.  The actual science is never boring.
6) Qualifications: if you want to really succeed in science, you need to go
to grad school, and to be a serious player you have to get a PhD.  Sad but
true.  But a good doctoral program turns you into a professional scientist,
and makes you much better at what you do as a result.  It's essential, in
other words, for your career and for how you do your job.
7) I don't know if anyone in science starts out by trying to find a job
exactly.  You start at the bottom and volunteer or otherwise suffer in
order to get experience and make contacts and get yourself known.  You do
this because you love the work, not the money (which is bad for a long
time, until you're established).  If you're good, one thing leads to
another and eventually you find yourself with a real job.  But if I had to
give advice regarding getting ahead, it would be: get experience, network,
go to scientific meetings, stay on top of the field, read widely (primary
literature, not popular stuff), get a PhD.  And in the middle of all this
just let your love of the work carry you through.  If you're good at it,
it'll work out in the end.

Hope this helps,

Phil Clapham