Finding Out is Better

This week I interviewed my amazing mentor Liz Lange. While she originally wanted to be a history teacher, Dr. Lange (who prefers being referred to as Liz) learned during her time at Canisius College that she had a real passion for science and research. She originally focused on researching the bioaccoustics of marine mammals like whales and dolphins. Pretty quickly, though, Dr. Lange learned that, while she liked whales, it was not what she wanted to spend the rest of her life doing. She then went to Clemson for her master’s where she researched fish that internally fertilize. For her Ph.D. she made the move to FSU where she continued her fish research, examining trade offs between long-term survival and short-term fecundity. Now in her PostDoc at Duke, Dr. Lange works with Susan Alberts researching baboon social behavior at the Amboseli Research Group with collaborators at Princeton and Notre Dame.

Something I’d never really considered before was the transience of a career in academia; Dr. Lange had moved from western New York to South Carolina to the Florida Panhandle in a few years. This prompted my next question: did she feel more “adult” in graduate school? The short answer is yes. Moving across the country, further away from family, requires independence and gumption. At the same time, though, other “adult” things, like starting a family and buying a house, were delayed until post-graduate school. Still, Dr. Lange said the prize of being a full-time researcher and researching animal behavior and evolutionary biology was well-worth these short-term sacrifices.

I also talked to Dr. Lange and Georgia Young, a ’24 Duke graduate working in the Alberts Lab who’ll be moving to UC Berkeley for her PhD, about deciding on a graduate school/program and they echoed one another in their support for choosing a graduate school based largely off of mentor and lab culture. Something I’ve noticed, though, in our all-lab meetings is that everyone in the Alberts Lab has a culture of valuing life outside of research, which is really important to me.

In terms of my own takeaways, I think our conversation was incredibly valuable. I’ve already learned that I love research in BSURF, so talking about the other aspects of  a career (life) in academia is most helpful. Mark Twain said “Supposing is good, but finding out is better.” I really enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to talk to Dr. Lange and Georgia and am looking forward to continuing to work with them this summer as well as working towards finding out if research is for me!

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