Dr. Susan Humphris, Senior Scientist, Department of Geology
and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods
not working, Dr. Humphris likes messing around in boats,
swimming, and gardening. In this photo, she is deep down in
the ocean in the submersible (mini-submarine) Alvin.
Why are you a scientist?
When I was in high school in the United Kingdom, I always
found science and mathematics the most challenging
subjects, so I was drawn to them rather than choosing to continue
with something I found easier. However, I was also an outdoors
person and really wanted to combine my love of nature with
science. I really enjoy doing research both out in the field
and in the lab.
What is science?
For me, science is trying to understand how the world around
us works. Since natural processes are so complicated,
you have to develop a series of systematic steps that
allow you to unravel all the pieces. Those steps might include
field observations and measurements, controlled experiments
in the lab, and analysis and synthesis of different
types of data.
What skills and qualities are necessary in order to be
Most important, scientists must have a passion for their field
of study and a dedication to research. Curiosity about the
world, and the creativity to figure out how to address a scientific
question, are key to being able to successfully propose and
conduct research. Scientists also need perseverance
when things do not go as planned, and must pay attention to
every detail. Finally, scientists must have the ability to
communicate well, both orally and written.
What is most enjoyable about your job?
I love going on oceanographic research cruises and working
with other scientists from many different disciplines. I particularly
enjoy those cruises when I am diving to the bottom of the
ocean in a submersible. There is always the possibility
that you are going to discover something new. Many times,
you are seeing part of the planet that has never been seen
before that is exciting, but it is also a responsibility
to make sure that you do the best job you can in describing
what you are seeing.
What frustrations do you face with your job?
I spend a lot of time writing proposals to get the funds to
conduct a project that cuts into the time I have to
think about my science. I also sometimes find it frustrating
to have to stop and write a paper on my results when I already
know what they are telling me. I want to move on! However,
I also realize the importance of communicating the results
of my work, so I am willing to put up with the frustration.
a Dive in the Deep with Alvin
Learn more about Alvin here
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
a careful study of the parts of something in order to understand
more about the whole
a condition of being disappointed, blocked, or prevented from
produced by nature; not made by humans
patience, continuing a task or course of action
series of actions that produce something; a series of
changes or acts
a vessel or ship that can function underwater
combining separate elements or pieces of information into
a unified whole; a process of reasoning
based on a method or plan; orderly; organized