I was interested in nature. I liked to be outdoors. I grew up in Colorado. I was really interested in animals. I liked to go outside and find animals such as insects, caterpillars, frogs, and things. I also had a lot of pets. I also participated in a lot of sports.
At the end of undergraduate school, I realized that I was interested enough in science that I wanted to make some sort of career or job out of it. I realized that the kind of research I was interested in required graduate work. So I went off to graduate school to try and get more training.
As an undergraduate, I was interested in ecology. I went to Pomona College, which is a small college in California. The kind of ecology I was studying was desert plant ecology. I got interested in oceanography when I went out to sea on a cruise. I realized that there were a lot of parallels between the desert and the deep sea. I got intrigued by oceanography because there were lots and lots of unknowns.
Towards the end of my graduate studies, which were long and convoluted (I won’t bore you with the details, but I went through probably a record number of different thesis projects) but when I finally finished the thesis project that worked out, I started looking for a postdoc and looking for the kind people who were doing the research I wanted to do. A lot of those people were here at Woods Hole. I contacted them and talked about getting a postdoc. I got funding together for a postdoc and ended up out here in the Ocean Engineering Department where I tried to learn about fluid dynamics.
Then a job opening came in the biology department, which was what my PhD was in. I applied for that job and moved across the bridge into the biology department.
I think what inspires me is just figuring things out. Just going out there and trying to understand what's going on. And coming in everyday and thinking, "Hmm, nobody's answered that question. I guess I better work on it." Just going out and trying to figure it out, and having enough self-confidence to say, "I really think it is this. Oops, my bad. It wasn't that. Maybe it's this."
And you know what I really love is interacting with graduate students, undergraduates, and high school students. I love having them in my lab and asking all sorts of questions about everything. They ask you just the oddest questions that I should know the answer to, but I don't. I can't even begin to tell you about the questions that they ask that really make me think about what I do. It brings me back. What am I doing? What is important? I just love it.
As a woman, I can’t think of any specific major things that have come up in my career. There are many times when I feel like I don’t quite have the right type of personality for science. It seems as if science needs really aggressive, assertive people, and that’s not who I am. I guess I have found that I can compensate for that by being very stubborn.
One of the things that continues to inspire me about my career is the opportunity to discover things, and that is not just discovering things at the bottom of the ocean. It’s also the chance to discover how organisms work and interact in the interesting ecosystems in the ocean.
I don’t have any spare time! I have found that I have to make a conscious effort to make spare time. When I do that, I like to spend it with my kids. I also like to spend it out in nature. That’s one holdover from when I was a kid. I like to go sea kayaking and skiing, and I particularly like doing those things with my family.
The only advice I would give anyone is to make sure you stay curious about whatever it is you think you are going to do. I think curiousity drives a lot of intellectual advancement. As far as classwork, if you are interested in oceanography, you really need a lot of basic science.
- Senior Scientist, Department of Biology
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
More about Lauren
Read an interview with Lauren.
Get more info on Lauren's background.
- Picture Gallery
See images of Lauren at work.
- Learn More
Learn more about Lauren's field
- Lauren's Calendar
See Lauren's typical work week.
- Related Links
Other sites related to Lauren's career.
More Remarkable Careers
- Melanie Holland
- Faculty Research Associate, Microbial Ecology
Melanie Holland studies the microbes that thrive in scalding temperatures surrounding hydrothermal vents. These amazing organisms not only reveal important information about the vent communities, they may also provide insights into the origin of life on Earth and the possible existence of life on other planets.
- Rose Dufour
- Ship Scheduler and Clearance Officer, Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support
Rose Dufour and her job-share partner Elizabeth Brenner create the schedules for four research ships. The challenge is to keep the scientists, funding agencies, and foreign governments happy.
- Claudia Benitez-Nelson
- Assistant Professor, Chemical Oceanography
Claudia Benitez-Nelson uses radioactive isotopes to study the complex world of nutrient cycling in the oceans.
- Wen-lu Zhu
- Associate Scientist, Geology and Geophysics
Wen-lu Zhu studies the properties of rocks found deep in the ocean crust by recreating those conditions in the laboratory.
- Jo Griffith
- Principal Illustrator, Scientific and Oceanographic Data
Technical illustrator Jo Griffith hasn’t picked up a pen in over five years. Instead she uses a variety of computer programs to create graphs, maps, and illustrations for researchers.
- Emily Klein
- Professor of Geology, Geochemistry
Emily collects rocks from the deep seafloor. The chemicals that make up the rocks provide clues to how the oceanic crust is built.
- Margaret Leinen
- Assistant Director for Geosciences
As a scientist, Margaret Leinen studied sediments that have accumulated on the ocean floor. Now as the Assistant Director of Geosciences at the National Science Foundation, she oversees programs in Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Environmental Sciences. She is also working on initiatives to bring more women and minorities into these fields.
- Maya Tolstoy
- Research Scientist, Geophysics
Marine seismologist Maya Tolstoy helps find active volcanoes on the seafloor by listening for their eruptions.
- Amy Bower
- Associate Scientist, Physical Oceanography
Amy studies the interactions between ocean currents and climate. These interactions are very complex.
- Kathryn Kelly
- Professor (Affiliate), Physical Oceanography
Kathryn Kelly studies how changing ocean currents affect the climate. And she does all of her research from the comfort of her office.
- Kathryn Gillis
- Professor, Earth and Ocean Sciences
Kathryn Gillis dives to rifts in the seafloor that are as deep as six kilometers to learn about the processes taking place within the ocean crust.
- Dawn Wright
- Associate Scientist, Geography/Marine Geology
Master Lego-constructor and former bicycle-racer Dawn Wright has immersed herself in two disciplines. As a geologist, she is studying the cracks that form in the seafloor along the mid-ocean ridge. As a geographer, she is developing software that oceanographers are using to interpret seafloor data.
- Debby Ramsey
- Third Engineer, Marine Crew
As Third Engineer onboard the Research Vessel Thomas G. Thompson, Debby Ramsey helps keep all of the equipment that has moving parts running smoothly.