Careers in Science
Frederick vom Saal
Was there a pivotal event in your life that helped you decide on your career path? I took a neuroscience course in college and was hooked on discovering the mechanisms that regulate development of the brain and reproductive system.
Who have been your greatest mentors and heroes? The person who had the greatest impact on my scientific career was my postdoctoral advisor, Dr. Frank Bronson, who taught me how to focus on the core issue and not, as he would say, “ to do research that involves dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s.”
What has been the biggest surprise in your life as a scientist? How much fun it is to be able to follow new leads into entirely new areas of science. I never would have imagined 20 years ago that my research results would lead me to conduct research on environmental pollutants.
What would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career? If you are willing to work long hours and do not mind entering a tunnel with no end in sight, which is what starting a Ph.D. program is like, and if you enjoy solving complex problems, then become a research scientist.
What do you like best about your profession? I get paid to find the answers to problems that are of great importance for public health, which is a wonderful and meaningful way to spend one’s life.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement? Helping, with many others, to identify new issues and develop solutions that will improve the health of everyone.
Are you optimistic for the future of the planet and if so why? Globalization may reduce the impact of immense corporate profits on political decisions made in one region. Also, the rapid dissemination of information via the Internet is making it harder for those seeking to suppress the truth to succeed.
What are your greatest fears for the future of the planet? That it is only when things reach a critical point that serious attempts at solving problems are initiated, and this means that we are harming the planet in ways that may not be fixable because we waited too long.
What’s the one message you would like the next generation of scientists to hear? - Do not get locked into the paradigms that you are taught to believe in early in your career. Always be open to the possibility that a “paradigm shift” will occur and completely change what you thought about a subject.
What Web sites, books, articles and other layperson references would you recommend for viewers interested in your work featured in Strange Days on Planet Earth?
Environmental Health News:
Environmental Workign Group: http://www.EWG.org
The Endocrine Disruption Exchange: http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/
“Our Stolen Future” by Theo Colborn, Diane Dumanoski and John Peterson
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