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Biology Overview 

Frederick W. Stoss

Associate Librarian
SUNY, University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY


B.A. Biology, Hartwick College
M.S. Zoology, SUNY College at Brockport
M.S. Library and Information science, Syracuse University
Frederick Stoss is responsible for collection development (journals, databases, monographs, etc.), user services (reference and referral), library instruction/information literacy, and outreach in the areas of biological and environmental sciences and mathematics.
"Getting a firm grip on the math makes the chemistry, the physics, and the biology that much more easy to understand."

What fields of biology do you work in?
Stoss: Broadly defined in areas of subject specialization in a Science and Engineering Library in Biological and Environmental Sciences and Mathematics.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Stoss: Actually quite young! I had a trout stream running through a farm field adjacent to my home in Johnstown, New York. There were many other fields, woodlots, forested hillsides, vernal ponds, and all sorts of things that kept a young kid interested in wanting to learn more. I thought it would be a great way to make a living: playing in the outdoors. Years later I found "ecology." The rest is part of my history. I am still looking under stones in creeks and downed trees in the forest. Perhaps I still seek Fred's Last Opus!

Q: What was your college experience like?
Stoss: My undergraduate years in a small Lutheran college in the Susquehanna River Valley just west of the Catskill Mountains provide many opportunities for studying nature in and outside of the classroom. The late 1960s and early 1970s were incredible times to be studying ecology and environmental science, stimulated in part by the first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) my sophomore year in college and four months after completing my first college environmental class, "Man and the Environment," an interdisciplinary class. It was a sustaining moment that allowed me to continue my studies in a graduate program in aquatic ecology and toxicology, and an eight year career as an environmental toxicologist, before becoming an environmental information specialist and a science librarian. The change of career paths was relatively easy: I got extremely interested in the data and information aspects of toxicology and environmental health. 

Q: Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Stoss: No, I was a second chef at a relatively high-end resort. Yes, I really can still cook some very impressive meals and a background in invertebrate zoology was a HUGE bonus! Trust me on this.

Q: How did you get your first job?
Stoss: I attended a seminar while in graduate school and told the speaker about my graduate work and was practically hired on the spot.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
Stoss: The investigation of biological process in research settings has been fascinating to watch over 40+ years. "The Biological Time Bomb," was published in 1968 -- the year I graduated from high school and the year I started college. That time bomb exploded with a loud and resounding, "BOOM!" From the basic understanding of the mechanisms of DNA replication and protein synthesis to the disciplines of genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, and a host of other spin-off disciplines in molecular and structural biology and genetics is mind-boggling. The excitement never goes away, it just is amplified and modulated over time.

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Stoss: In December 2006 I was chosen to be one of the "1,000 Climate Messengers" trained by former Vice President Al Gore and The Climate Project. We were trained to present the slide show that is the basis of Mr. Gore's award-winning book and documentary film, "An Inconvenient Truth." I have been called upon to give scores of presentations before audiences, big and small, young and old and in with divergent opinions on the topics of climate change and global warming. Many of these presentations have been given for professional library associations, which have allowed me to return with a different message about building sustainable and "green" communities.

Q: Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Stoss: I think I approach a good happy-medium on travel. At times I feel I can do more. At times I feel I should do less. In the end, it balances.

Q: Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
Stoss: There are three: Drs. Earl E. Deubler and Carol A. Bocher in the Biology Department at Hartwick College who had patience, allowed for mistakes to be made and corrected, stimulated thought and provided an intense sense of dedication and motivation. Dr. Marta Dosa in the School of information Studies at Syracuse University, was and remains an invaluable motivating force.

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Stoss: Team building is essential. Team working is critical. Team sharing is vital.

Q: Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while working in your current job?
Stoss: This has been a constant struggle. I found myself trying to balance and overlap as much as possible: vacations and conferences, shared interests and motivations: my wife's and my only child has a BA in Art History and is getting a new degree in Earth Science. We are members of two professional organizations, have collaborated on several presentations and one paper. Her ability to stand alone in her profession was a tremendous sense of accomplishment for me. She does it well and she can teach me in return!

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Stoss: Yes, but think about the rigors the degree now has with a tremendous emphasis on chemistry and mathematics far beyond what was expected of me 40 years ago.

Q: Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Stoss: No. I think I learned more about "real world" things in college athletics and 3+ years at my fraternity house! There was more than enough time and effort for the academic things, but preparations for living in that so-called "real world," were far removed from the classroom and laboratory. I also imagine the number of hours of solitude or comradery fly fishing in a trout stream or tracking a white-tail deer had more lessons about getting along.

Q: Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
Stoss: Translating scientific, medical and technical achievements into cogent articles for the lay person to under stand. Scientific and technical communications are so critical and there needs to be better models to encourage effective means for writing, speaking, and presenting the results of research to non-sci-tech audiences, such as executives, legislators, managers, an that good old public at-large. Writing and communication skill are needed. Information and data management: making sense of genomic data is just as much a study of data management as it is molecular or structural biology.

Q: What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Stoss: Do the math. Getting a good, solid and high-quality math background (and the grading system of far too many states, New York in particular, places too much emphasis on rewarding bad performance, avoiding hurt feelings, and paves the way for devastating consequences in college mathematic classes). Getting a firm grip on the math makes the chemistry, the physics, and the biology that much more easy to understand. Have fun!


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