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Peter W Pappas ppappas at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu
Sun Dec 18 09:55:10 EST 1994

In article <3cust1$e64 at crcnis3.unl.edu>,
john janovy <jjanovy at unlinfo.unl.edu> wrote:
>TO: Daniel B. Watkins
>FROM: John Janovy, Jr.
>                School of Biological Sciences
>                University of Nebraska-Lincoln
>                Lincoln, NE 68588-0118
>                jjanovy at unLinfo.unL.edu
>RE: Your son's education
>Dear Daniel Watkins:
>What a wonderful question!  [Would you out there who have been through
>the system
>recommend an approach to his education?]  I'm guessing you'll get a
>LOT of
>answers, depending on the particular system(s) your responders have
>through."  I've given grades to about 13,000 students in the past 30
>years.  They
>range (now) from faculty members at major universities, executives in
>industry, highly
>successful entrepeneurs, to the lower end of the socio-economic scale.
> So my
>comments come from the perspective of one who sees a rather
>substantial sample
>of human resources come into the university system equipped with all
>kinds of
>advice, then sees that same sample processed by a system that offers
>opportunities but sometimes focuses more on money and prestige than on
>the role
>of truly talented people in a complex society such as ours.
>Put simply, my advice about your son's interest in microbiology (or
>any other kind of
>biology or any other kind of science) is:  don't worry about it.  He
>will never lack for
>opportunities to eventually do research, take challenging courses,
>make his mark as
>a scientist.  Almost any large university, and many small ones, can
>produce a
>productive scientist.  The value of a university education can be
>multiplied many
>times over by a student simply taking the time to talk to faculty
>members who will
>listen, seek and find an opportunity to do research early in his/her
>career, interact
>with graduate students, teach labs (many of our undergrads do all
>these things), etc.
>The best education is one in which a young person learns early on how
>to decide
>what he or she personally wants to study, learns how to gather the
>necessary to pursue the work, and learns that biological material is
>not always
>On the other hand, I see a large number of scientists, thrust into
>positions of major
>responsibility by the momentum of their careers, who have absolutely
>no sense
>whatsoever of how to interact meaningfully with their fellow humans.
>If your son is
>truly as talented as he appears to be right now, then 30 years hence
>(assuming we
>still have a civilized and reasonably stable world) he has an
>excellent chance of
>finding himself in such a position.
>My advice for a middle school scientist?  Learn to love art,
>literature, music; learn to
>get along with your colleagues, but most of all learn to manage human
>resources in a
>productive, dignified, way.  The best lessons now, in my opinion, are
>those taught by
>the humanities--the history of success and failure, the interactions
>technology and the wielding of power, the rise and fall of nations,
>the brutally honest
>lessons of evolution, demography, and the geographic distribution of
>Don't sweat the microbiology.  That's the easiest part of a
>scientist's career.  And
>quite frankly, (here comes the wrath of some microbiologists!!)
>prokaryotes are in
>many ways infinitely more cooperative than some eukaryotes.  The
>hardest part of
>that career will come when, as a successful scientist, your son finds
>himself in the
>company of arrogant fragile egos unwilling to confer intellectual
>citizenship on
>anyone who doesn't think exactly like they do.  And, there's an
>excellent chance he'll
>find himself in a position where he's forced to work with those people
>to achieve a
>common goal.
>Good luck.
>I'd start with Ernst Mayr's GROWTH OF BIOLOGICAL THOUGHT.
>(PS Sorry about the above format; for some reason it didn't transfer
>as well as it normally does!)
As one who has taught "Zoology" for over 20 years, I agree with what John has 
said above --- learning to think independently and learning to get along with 
people are, without doubt, two of the most important things we need to learn, 
but unfortunately they are also two things people often fail to learn.  I only 
wish I could have said it as eloquently as John.
Peter W. Pappas, Professor/Chairperson, Department of Zoology,
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH  43210  USA
E-mail: pappas.3 at osu.edu; FAX (614)-292-2030,
PHONE (614)-292-8088

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