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Biology Overview - Overview PowerPoint - Podcast


Theodore (Ted) Tibbitts
Emeritus Professor of Horticulture
Crop Physiology and
Horticulture Department,
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Madison, WI



 

BS, MS, and PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison
Professor Tibbitts taught and conducted research on the environmental physiology of vegetable crops for 40 years.
"Work summers in jobs that will give you interesting experiences."


What fields of biology do you work in?
Tibbitts:
Plant Physiology.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Tibbitts: When I was a sophomore at the University.

Q: What was your college experience like?
Tibbitts: Enjoyed it. I lived in a cooperative agriculture house helping with the maintenance of the house except for the week day cooking. Enjoyed the camaraderie of the 25 other members, intramural sports, card games and social activities at the house. Studied often with other members of the house, for usually there were some in the same class. Studied in the library as needed. I joined two College of Agriculture clubs, 4H and Blue Shield. Was on the College Student Council. Served on the University Life and Interests Committee. Deacon in the University Presbyterian Church.

Q: Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Tibbitts: Yes. I basically earned all of my expenses for college. I delivered the campus paper in early morning before classes, hourly work during weekends helping with professor's research in the Agronomy Department. Summers, between all but my freshman and sophomore year, I stayed at the University and worked full time for a professor helping with his field experiments.

Q: How did you get your first job?
Tibbitts: I obtained my research/teaching job in the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison through recommendation from my PhD advisor.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
Tibbitts: Understanding and unlocking the mysteries of how plants respond to their environment in which they are growing.

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Tibbitts:
A. Developed a plant study with potatoes that was flown on NASA's space flights to demonstrate that plants can photosynthesize and accumulate starch in tubers under weightlessness. This was the first experiment to demonstrate that a plant can produce food in space.
B. Determined the impact of the interacting environmental factors that caused the internal injury in head lettuce called ‘tipburn' and how to control these factors to minimize injury.

Q: Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Tibbitts: Yes, several trips each year to national and international meetings of plant science societies and serving on advisory or review panels for EPA and NASA. Also had several national and international trips supported by NASA to interact with other scientists concerned with developing life support systems for permanent bases on the Moon and/or Mars.

Q: Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
Tibbitts: No, but many people I leaned on for advice. I regret I did not have a mentor during the first 5 years of my University research/teaching position.

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Tibbitts: I worked alone at the University in my teaching and research responsibilities however I worked in a team situation with scientists at other United States institutions for much of my research activity.

Q: Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while working in your current job?
Tibbitts: Yes, one of the significant ways I balanced family life was that when going to meetings I drove and took my wife and children with me and then usually took a few days of vacation to do some interesting sight seeing. After the children were raised I continued to take my wife with me on trips, especially foreign trips, and again added on a few days of vacation.
I also made certain that weekend nights and most weekend days, especially Sunday, were family time. (Early in my career, Saturday morning was considered a regular University work time.)

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Tibbitts: Yes, it was a great career.

Q: Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Tibbitts: Only partially, much of this is learned as I begin working and watched other professionals do their job. I do not think school can do this for you. Internships can help.

Q: Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
Tibbitts: There is no end of jobs for Biologists in improving and increasing food for our expanding populations and insuring a healthy environment.
Take a broad range of courses in all Biological and Physical sciences along with a reasonable amount of Humanity courses. Ask Professors if you can help them with their research or teaching activities on a volunteer basis. Take summer jobs in an area of interest to them with less concern for what they will be paid then obtaining varied experiences.

Q: What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Tibbitts: Work summers in jobs that will give you interesting experiences.
Do not be overly concerned over the College or University you attend. Most any institution can provide you a good education if you are willing to work at it. Having the best paying job after graduation is not as important as being happy in the job you accept.

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