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Tyrone Hayes, PhD

We asked each of our scientists to give us their thoughts on their professions and what they think the future holds for humanity.

What would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career?
Above all else, be sure that it is what you really want to do. As with any professional career, essentially you spend half of your life training to do something that you will then spend the next half of your life doing. Personally, I cannot imagine how depressing that would be if I did not love what I do.

What do you like best about your profession?
Freedom. Seven years ago, I was granted tenure. Two years ago, full professor status. For the first nine months as a full professor, I have to admit, I was somewhat lost and depressed. All of my life, I have been jumping hurdles... high school graduation, SATs, acceptance to college, GREs, acceptance to graduate school, PhD exam, dissertation, postdoctoral fellowship, assistant professor, tenure, full professor... then all of a sudden there was nothing left. How was I to measure my progress? Then I realized, I am 35 years old and I can do whatever I want! For the rest of my life! I can't get promoted anymore, but I can't get fired either. The freedom truly gave me the power to commit to and focus on solving the problems that I want to solve, learning what I want to learn, teaching the people that I want to teach, doing the job that I love and that I have spent all of my life preparing to do... and as always, I continue to have the freedom to share my work with my family and my family with my work.

What makes you most fearful for the future?
Money. Of course we all need it, but I have seen first hand what it has done to many people, including some that were otherwise good scientists and good people. The power that it brings and the need to have it can be an awfully destructive and disruptive force. As the world's population continues to grow and more and more people compete for fewer and fewer resources, I grow more concerned that we will sacrifice collaboration, integration and harmony.

What makes you most hopeful for the future?
Collaboration, integration and harmony. Throughout my career, my laboratory and the people with whom I collaborate have always been very diverse. Still, I marvel at how people in my laboratory from such diverse ethnic, racial, socio-economic, educational, philosophical and religious backgrounds can come together in such harmony and work together for a common cause. Even more now, this collaboration is growing, expanding well beyond my laboratory and beyond my field of expertise. In the professional community, I am now interacting with people as diverse as environmental chemists, hydrologists, behavioral biologists, evolutionary biologists and toxicologists in addition to the herpetologists and endocrinologists with whom I traditionally interacted. In addition, I have attended conferences and given lectures in areas as diverse as public health departments, medical schools, conferences on geophysics, environmental chemistry, waste-water treatment, pest management, breast cancer and conservation in addition to the more traditional venues in my field.

I have also lectured in more than 15 countries (on five continents) in the last year. Thus, once we identify common interests, concerns and goals, there are no barriers to limit who we can learn from or to whom we can teach. Like the microcosm that is my laboratory, I am now collaborating and integrating with people who I otherwise may have never interacted.

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