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What is science?

Meet the scientists!

Dr. Evelyn Sherr, Dr. Barry Sherr, Professors of Biological Oceanography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.

Drs. Barry and Evelyn SherrWhen not working, Ev and Barry like to hike and backpack. They enjoy reading. Because they are interested in how the world works, they enjoy reading about astronomy, evolution, and geology. They like to listen to jazz and classical music. Ev also likes to cook.

Why are you scientists?
We’ve both been interested in science from childhood. We’ve always been interested in how things worked. (Barry got into trouble because he would take apart things like his parents’ binoculars or their record player to see how they worked) As children, we both lived near the ocean (Barry used to go snorkeling off Far Rockaway, New York, and Ev lived near Daytona Beach, Florida), so we were interested in ocean sciences. Barry read books by Jacques Cousteau, and Ev got kits called "Threads of Science". Every month she would get a new science kit in the mail, and she’d do the experiments.

What is science?
Science is a way of knowing about the world. Science is a process, not a body of facts. By the scientific process, one makes predictions about the world and what to expect in the future. The predictions are based on results of experiments and observations. A knowledgeable scientist elsewhere needs to be able to repeat the results in order for them to be accepted as valid. You can’t speak with authority about science without having something to back up what you say.

What skills and qualities are necessary in order to be a scientist?
You need curiosity and a great deal of training and education. It is important to have good communication skills. You need to be able to translate the results of your work into written and oral form.

Scientists are conservative and daring at the same time. They are conservative because they are slow to accept the results of research. These results have to be verified by other labs. It often takes years for new ideas to be accepted. Scientists are also daring because they have to be open to new ways of thinking. They think "outside the box" as they investigate how nature works.

What is most enjoyable about your job?
We’re our own boss. We’re managing a lab and we’re able to do what we want to do. We’re never bored — there’s always a challenge. We have freedom of thought and action. We especially like oceanography. It is a field science, as opposed to a lab science. It is very enjoyable to go out in the field and out to sea to do research. Also, we really enjoy knowing other scientists. They have a joy of life. They work really hard and play hard, too. In general, scientists are interesting people, who have learned a lot and who are interesting to be around.

It is also enjoyable to be working as a team. As a married couple, our colleague is there all the time. We’re not working alone. We can bounce ideas off each other.

What frustrations do you face with your job?
It is frustrating to find the money to fund our research. Most of our grants come from the National Science Foundation. Also, we don’t always have enough time to sit down with the data and analyze it the way we would like to. It seems like we always have to go on to some other thing. We often find ourselves working many more hours a week than we are paid for.

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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.

analyze:
to separate into parts for study; to explain and examine

astronomy:
the science that studies stars, planets, and the rest of the universe

authority:
knowledge; source of expert information and opinion

challenging:
interesting; difficult

conservative:
safe; not too extreme; not willing to take chances or risks; wanting things to stay as they are; not favoring change

daring:
brave or carefree enough to do something new, different, or unusual

evolution:
the process of changing and adapting to an environment over time

experiment:
a test or trial to discover something unknown

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

geology:
the science that studies the physical properties of the Earth and how it has changed over time. To do this, some scientists study rocks on Earth, and other scientists study other planets

grant:
money for a specific research purpose

knowledgeable:
having information or knowledge

oceanography:
the science and study of oceans

predictions:
statements that something might happen or is expected to happen

processes:
series of actions that produce something; a series of changes or acts

snorkeling:
swimming slightly underwater with the help of a tube held in the mouth. The tube extends above the surface of the water, so that the swimmer can stay underwater for long periods of time.

valid:
based on truth, fact, or logic; acceptable