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Re: Dinosaur Paleontology.

I'll go along with Chris' comments. When I was in college, I looked around and 
finally chose Chemistry. But I also took some Physics and some computer 
science, and I went to a liberal arts college, so even in the classes I took, I 
got a rather broad view of the disciplines.

Having a broader base of knowledge from which to make a career, I have been 
able to use this knowledge for the museum I work for in many ways, and, now 
that I am looking at becoming more actively involved in paleontology, I find 
that my background, while not particularly conducive to paleo work, does allow 
me to see some things in a slightly different light.

Science is the key - and paleontology use many parts of many different 
disciplines. Act like a sponge and absorb what you can on the undergrad level 
before deciding on a specific field!

Brent : )

>>> chris brochu <cbrochu@mail.fmnh.org> 12/01/00 08:12AM >>>
>Thank you for your input. The money is not a concern. I want to be a
>paleontologist. It has been my dream since I was a young child. The problem I
>seem to have is finding a university with a curriculum emphasizing dino
>paleontology. So far I have found only universities offering geology degrees
>with concentrations in vertebrate paleontology. A lot of these are mammalian
>in context. The University of Wyoming, a university right in the middle of
>dino country has classes in mammal vertebrate paleontology. Any way thank you
>again for your response. Have a good night.
>                      Joe

A few thoughts on this subject:

1.  You won't find a university with a program emphasizing dinosaur
paleontology.  And I say, "Good!"  Undergrad is not the time to specialize
that much.  This is your opportunity to soak up as much science as you can.
Drink it all up!  'Cause when you get to grad school, that opportunity

2.  I honestly think pre-college people should stop saying "I want to be a
paleontologist!" and start saying "I want to be a scientist!"  There are
many reasons for this.  All of the sciences are equally interesting and
worthy of study.  Thinking of all of them will give you an
interdisciplinary perspective should you decide to stay with paleo.  Some
of them have more career opportunities as well - and who knows, maybe
you'll actually like them as much as paleo.

3.  The reality of the job market really came home to me this past year.
It started with me interviewing for a faculty position at the University of
Iowa.  I ended up getting the position, and I was thrilled - I did my
undergrad there and truly love Iowa City.  But it was tempered by the fact
that five of us interviewed for that job, and the other four candidates
were personal friends of mine.  Sure, I got the job - but that means four
other people I care about did not.  These other four are excellent,
qualified scientists.  And that doesn't address the dozens of
also-excellent, also-qualified people who weren't selected for an interview.

And then later in the year came the interview process for the Field
Museum's dinosaur curator position.  Thank God I wasn't involved in that
search process!  All five candidates were good friends.  All five were
flat-out superb scientists.  I wanted them to hire all five!  And they
couldn't.  Again, I stood back and watched as four good people were turned
away.  If you think that wasn't just a little bit painful, you're wrong.

Going to the evolution/systematics meetings was awkward this year as well.
Between the dinosaur "heart" (which I don't think is an internal organ),
Longisquama's "feathers," and "Archaeoraptor," vertebrate paleontology's
been in the news a lot this year, but not for the right reasons.  We took
it on the chin this year, and other scientific disciplines noticed.  It
wasn't so bad that I had to apologize over and over again for my
discipline, but we were the butt of some jokes at the meeting.

Overall, I will not tell you not to go into paleontology.  This is a
science I truly love.  But I will ask you to look at a broader range of
science for potential careers.


Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

phone 312-665-7633
fax 312-665-7641
electronic cbrochu@fmppr.fmnh.org