Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DeSantis Visit

As a woman, one can't have too many positive role models. And as a scientist, one can't underestimate the value of networking and building professional relationships. Back on February 9th I hosted a visiting speaker for the interdisciplinary seminar I am taking. The purpose of the course is to get people to come do guest lectures on topics that are interesting and have broad reaching implications across many disciplines. I invited Larisa DeSantis from Vanderbilt University as my guest. She does really cool research, and I had met her earlier in October at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists meeting in Pittsburgh. I found in Larisa someone I can model my own career after.

Dr. DeSantis received her PhD in 2009, and took a position as a professor at Vanderbilt immediately afterward. That is highly unusual, and was quite an accomplishment. It's no wonder, however, because she had a very productive graduate career and came into her current position with a staggering number of publications for someone so fresh out of school. She is a shining example of why it is such a good idea to produce papers and do talks as you progress towards a degree.

I can also respect Dr. DeSantis because of the education and science outreach she has done in addition to her research. She has produced several educationally based publications as a result of mentoring teachers in science education. During her visit we talked at length about the importance of educational outreach and communicating science. We also talked at length about what I might be doing for my dissertation, and she offered to help in any way she could. It was just nice to have an optimistic conversation about what I might do for a project, and she was honest and encouraging.

Dr. DeSantis is a paleoecologist, but she uses information gleaned from the fossil record to better understand current ecological processes, particularly those related to climate change. She also uses modern day processes to better understand ecological patterns of the past. She's a good person to know, I hope that other people in my class got as much out of her visit as I did.

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