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What is science?

Meet the scientists!

Dr. Mark Abbott, Dean of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Professor of Biological Oceanography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.

Dr. Mark AbbottWhen not working, Dr. Abbott likes to read books about current events and American history. He also enjoys hiking in the hills and mountains of Oregon. He has been an avid birdwatcher since he was 5 years old.

Why are you a scientist?
I have always been interested in the natural world, and I want to understand how the environment changes and how people affect it. Understanding leads to better management of our planet.

What is science?
Science is a rational way to understand the truth about our world. It lets us ask questions and develop answers that can be tested now and in the future by other scientists. We continually ask more difficult questions and improve our answers and our understanding of the world.

What skills and qualities are necessary in order to be a scientist?
You must be curious about the world and how it works. You must be willing to work hard, constantly seeking to improve your understanding and to listen to other views. You must be willing to change your mind when the evidence contradicts your ideas. Good writing and speaking are essential, so that you can work with other scientists. Mathematics is essential as it provides a clear way to express and to test your ideas.

What is most enjoyable about your job?
I enjoy developing new ideas when analyzing data. Trying to explain something that you have never seen before is especially exciting. I also enjoy seeing students and young scientists succeed. Lively discussions with other scientists, arguing from different viewpoints, and coming to an agreement are stimulating and fun.

What frustrations do you face with your job?
The lack of time to do science, traveling to meetings, hassles with airlines, and the changing government rules are frustrating. It is also challenging to balance the many demands on my time.

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The bold words that are on this page are words that are in the glossary. You can find their meanings below.

If you want to see the whole glossary, click here.

to separate into parts for study; to explain and examine


to say the opposite of; to deny the truth of something

a collection of measurements or observations

surroundings; physical, chemical, and biological factors that act upon an organism or an ecological community

necessary; important

based on reasoning or logic; sensible; clear and logical thought