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Biology Overview 

Hans Sues

Associate Director for Research and Collections
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC



M.Sc., University of Alberta
M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University
Hans Sues has administrative oversight of all research and collections programs at the National Museum of Natural History, but also continues active research.
"Contrary to what you may hear from many of your classmates science is fun and exciting. Even if your school does not offer any good science classes you can learn a lot on your own."

What fields of biology do you work in?
Sues: Evolutionary Biology.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Sues: I decided that as a child.

Q: What was your college experience like?
Sues: Exciting I learned a lot about living and extinct organisms. 

Q: Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Sues: Yes I worked as a collection assistant and did fieldwork.

Q: How did you get your first job?
Sues: I got my first permanent position through a competitive international search.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
Sues: The most rewarding part of being a biologist is having the privilege to see, and try to understand, the amazing diversity of life. 

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Sues: My research has revealed numerous new and interesting facts about the history of life, and I hope that my teaching and exhibit work has served and will continue to serve future generations of biologists and laypersons interested in the natural world.

Q: Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Sues: Yes not as much now as I would like to.

Q: Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
Sues: I have been most fortunate to have had several wonderful mentors during my college and graduate training.

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Sues: Like most areas of science, biological research is increasingly becoming a team effort, but there are still things that I can explore on my own.

Q: Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while working in your current job?
Sues: My wife and daughter are very tolerant and know how much science and exploration mean to me.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Sues: Absolutely.

Q: Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Sues: Science is a fast-moving enterprise, and much of what I learned in school has already become outdated. However, good teachers teach you how to think about scientific problems and inspire curiosity.

Q: Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
Sues: Several prominent researchers have noted that this century is poised to become the "Century of Biology." One fact in support of that assessment is the amazing rate of progress in understanding the genetic makeup of organisms from bacteria to humans and how genes control development. We are also in the midst of a global biodiversity crisis, which makes exploration of biodiversity critically important. Today many biologists only work in laboratories and may have never seen the organisms whose biomolecules they are studying. I would encourage any student to travel and explore the actual living world. It is an amazing, personally enriching experience.

Q: What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Sues: Contrary to what you may hear from many of your classmates science is fun and exciting. Even if your school does not offer any good science classes you can learn a lot on your own. Volunteering for a local natural history museum is a great extracurricular activity and can provide you with invaluable hands-on experience.


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