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What is science?

Meet the scientists!

Dr. Susan Humphris, Senior Scientist, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA.

Dr. Susan HumphrisWhen 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 a scientist?
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.

Take a Dive in the Deep with Alvin

Learn more about Alvin here and here

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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.

a careful study of the parts of something in order to understand more about the whole

interesting; difficult

a condition of being disappointed, blocked, or prevented from doing something

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