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Name: Michelle H.
Status: student
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001


Question:
I am a future science educator and needed to interview a scientist. I just have a few questions if someone can help.

1. What experiences in school science, if any, influenced you to pursue a career in science?

2. Are there any teachers who stand out in your mind as encouraging you to explore a career in science?

3. What is the best part of the work you do-the part that gives you the most satisfaction? Conversely what is the downside of your work?

4. In what ways is the scientific work your are pursuing similar or dissimilar to the school science experiences you had?

5. What contemporary scientific issue are you most concerned about?

6. What would you say to a student who wanted to shape her or his future with a career in science?

7. If you were to define science, how would you complete this sentance: "Science is....?"

and lastly...

8. What is the coolest thing about science?


Replies:
Michelle,

1. What experiences in school science, if any, influenced you to pursue a career in science?

I had a great old junior high school science teacher who allowed me to stay after school and tinker with the science hardware she used as demonstrations in class.

2. Are there any teachers who stand out in your mind as encouraging you to explore a career in science?

See # 1 above. In addition, at least a half dozen more. Here's the detail that really counted:

I was asked by a high school advisor (just before I was about to enroll in a local community college) what I would like to do for a career. I told her that I'd like to be a scientist ... but it was too hard, and I wasn't smart enough. In disgust, she tossed her glasses on the desk and burned a hole through me with a very disapproving stare. She announced that I had no basis to make such an unfounded statement until I had proof. She suggested that I sign up for a few science courses and then proceed to flunk them. That would be proof that my original assertion was true.

By coincidence, at about that same time, I was seriously attracted to a lovely little girl who was an honor student well along the track toward a career in science. One day, while we were engaged in innocent conversation, she offered me her chemistry book as a start on my quest. Cornered, I accepted -- what else could I do?

Thus, the happy combination of an old advisor who could see I had a potential invisible to me AND the hormonal drive to succeed and win the favor of my sweetie drove me to excellence. I earned an "A" in the chemistry class. In the second semester of the course I garnered another "A". By then I was hooked. The rest is history. The confidence and affection of three crucial women transformed a boy into a man.

3. What is the best part of the work you do -- the part that gives you the most satisfaction? Conversely, what is the downside of your work?

Best part: I was a research chemist for the federal government for the first eight years of my professional career. During that time, I was privileged to work with some very sophisticated analytical equipment. My research enabled me to publish almost forty scientific papers and make a (minor) discovery that led to a U.S. patent. In all, it was a very satisfying time for this young chemist.

Still, the life-changing experience of my early education had planted in me an unquenchable desire to be a teacher. When I discovered that a community college was about to be built in my area, I applied for a position. I resigned my post as a well-paid research scientist and became an profoundly rewarded chemistry professor.

The result has been a thirty year career in the service of young folks who are either attracted to or repelled by science. I've made it a lifetime commitment to convince every student that, more than fun and dazzle, science is a discipline and way of thinking that can empower the learner to greater understanding of the way the world works.

There is simply no substitute for the zing I feel when I can successfully explain a fact or principle to a struggling learner. To witness their success with Information I helped them learn is something that no amount of money can buy.

Downside: Knowing that no matter what I do, it'll never be enough.

4. In what ways is the scientific work your are pursuing similar or dissimilar to the school science experiences you had?

How many boys of seventeen ever end up doing exactly what they desire for a life work. I have been greatly blessed. I had good teachers and I strive to be a good teacher. I got lucky; over the years I've won a dozen awards for being modestly competent. None of those honors would have been possible without the inspiration and confidence of my students.

5. What contemporary scientific issue are you most concerned about?

We live in an increasingly complex and scientific world. I am troubled by the fact that the general public knows so little about the process and facts of science. Worse yet, among all too many there seems to be an aversion to anything that strains the brain. Willful ignorance can be fatal to a society.

6. What would you say to a student who wanted to shape her or his future with a career in science?

I would regale them with inspirational tales of how interesting and useful science can be. Before that, I would engage the student into a dialog about his/her background, goals, and inner drive to succeed. The details underlying all three are critical to success in science.

7. If you were to define science, how would you complete this sentence?: "Science is ---

Science is a systematic, disciplined, and always open-minded method of discovering things about the natural world.

8. What is the coolest thing about science?

Being able to discover the undiscovered.

The "coolest" thing about being a teacher is being able to explain the discoveries to an eager learner.

Regards,
ProfHoff 375



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