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Careers in Science

Scarla Weeks
Satellite Oceanographer

How did you choose your present profession? What were your biggest motivators?
My "first" career was a Radiation Biologist – studying the interaction of radiation with the human body. Dealing mostly with cancer patients, this was very depressing. For many years though, I had been scuba diving and my passion for the ocean was ever increasing. A chance meeting led to a total career change - see answer to next question.

Who were/are your greatest mentors/heroes?
Jacques Cousteau was my hero! Mentors: Gene Feldman (NASA) and Andrew Bakun (now RSMAS)

Was there a pivotal event in your life that helped you decide on your career path?
Yes! A chance visit to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on a holiday in New England led to a discussion that changed my career. I did not even know Satellite Oceanography existed but was soon persuaded that this was the way to combine my passion for the ocean and my radiation background!

What has been the biggest surprise in your life as a scientist?
Negative: That politics often overrules science, no matter how good the science... Positive: Watching the ocean "pulsating" from space, clearly seeing how, what happens on one side of the planet, directly affects what happens 1000s of kilometers - our planet is so inter-connected, it is beautiful and scary.... 

What would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career?
It is not an easy career and you don't make lots of money. But if you are passionate, do it! The rewards are wonderful.

What do you like best about your profession?
Being an "eye in the sky"! Being able to travel almost anywhere on the planet and look down from space while seated in my office.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement?
Not giving up! Persisting no matter the conditions, the disbelief, and then succeeding.

Are you optimistic for the future of the planet and if so why?
The planet will survive mankind either way - it is mankind that needs to decide whether it wishes to survive....  As a marine scientist, I simply have to believe that there are enough people on this planet who care. I do, and have dedicated my life's work to this endeavor.

What are your greatest fears for the future of the planet?
Man's greed and desire for power, at too great a cost to the environment.

What’s the one message you would like the next generation of scientists to hear?
We as mankind can and are destroying our environment, our home planet. It is up to each and every one of us to do whatever we can to change this, to educate, students, our friends & people around us. Every little bit helps, no matter how small. And - believe in yourself!

Visit Weeks' bio page »


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