Doctor Pamela Templer is an Associate Professor of Biology at Boston University. In her laboratory, her research focuses on the effects of winter climate change on forest biogeochemistry, the movement of nitrogen through temperate and tropical forest ecosystems, and the effects of land use on nutrient cycling. In high school, I first became interested in scientific research as I spent time volunteering in the Templer Lab. The following is an interview with Dr. Templer.
Q: What made you interested in the field of science?
A: I didn’t know that I wanted to be a scientist until college. I began college thinking that I would be a music major. However, I took an environmental science class and fell in love with it. The class was okay, but it opened the doors to me finding out about extraordinary options outside of the classroom. As a junior in college, I enrolled in the Natural History Field Quarter through the University of California Santa Cruz. We spent an entire quarter (12 weeks) traveling throughout California and learning the natural history and environmental policies of our state. This was my first experience with hands-on learning and I loved it. I also spent a semester in Costa Rica in a Tropical Biology program, which also reinforced my desire to learn more about nature and our environment. I applied and got into a Research Experience for Undergraduate Program at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY. This program was 3000 miles away from where I lived in CA, but they were doing really exciting research on the effects of urban cities on trees and soils. This was the first experience where I realized that I could not only learn a tremendous amount from hands-on learning, but I could also pursue a career in science, a field I was beginning to really enjoy.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in your career?
A: As a professor at a research university, the biggest challenge I face is getting every task completed that I’d like to. I also have a family so I find it to be a constant goal of mine to balance the different demands within my job (research, teaching, and service to my university), as well as time for my family.
Q: Have you had any experiences that made you want to veer away from science? If so, describe an experience.
A: Working in the field of science requires being able to take criticism. Through the peer review process of manuscripts and grant proposals, we hear feedback numerous times throughout the year about our work. It has gotten much easier over time to read these critiques and to use them constructively.
Q: What do you recommend for a college undergraduate student interested in science?
A: To get hands on experience. You can’t really learn what it is to be a scientist without doing science. In other words, you can’t really know what the daily life of a scientist is through reading about them. I suggest getting a position in a laboratory, in the field, at a company, in a hospital, anywhere that science is happening. Jump in and try to learn from it! You may not like the first experience, but keep trying and work in different areas.
Written by Vanessa Lee.