Dr. Dick Barber, Professor of Biological Oceanography,
not working, Dr. Barber likes to fish and play with
his grandchildren and, best of all, he fishes with his grandchildren.
Why are you a scientist?
I can't say why I decided to become a scientist; I made the
decision early in high school and never seriously considered
any other profession. I grew up messing around salt water;
I guess it got in my veins. In the summer following my freshman
year in college, I took a marine ecology course at the Marine
Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole that was taught by John
Ryther and Gene Odum. After that, the die was cast.
What is science?
Science is a process that enables us to systematically
find out things that arent known. Often this is described
as "answering fundamental questions" about
how the natural world works.
What skills and qualities are necessary in order to be
The skills and qualities that are necessary to be a successful
scientist are the same as those that make a successful farmer
or detective. You need a strong curiosity about the things
youre working with; you need to be a person who has
strong hunches, sometimes called intuition; you need
to be able to decide with inadequate information which
of your hunches are right and which are wrong; and finally
you need to be able to change your mind easily and not be
embarrassed when you find that you were wrong.
What is most enjoyable about your job?
The most enjoyable part of being a research scientist is being
able to follow my curiosity, respond to my hunches, find out
when Im wrong, and head off in a new direction. The
other part thats very enjoyable is working with students.
Science is partly collaborative and partly competitive;
the young people with their enormous energy and fresh vision
are the perfect competitors and collaborators for older people
who have the advantage of wisdom gained from experience. In
the process of working with young people, everybody gains.
What frustrations do you face with your job?
There is a lot of busy work associated with any complex endeavor,
and research science is no exception. That is, however, a
small price to pay for the freedom to pursue your hunches.
to Meet the Scientists
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
cooperative; working with others on a project
trying to win; working against someone else
a project, attempt, or a try
basic; central; serving as a foundation
not enough; not good enough
the power to know or understand something without thinking
it through in a logical way
produced by nature; not made by humans
in an orderly or organized way