What do you think of when you hear the word “scientist?” The classic visual of a person in a white lab coat peering into a glass tube filled with colorful liquid? Someone tucked in a laboratory somewhere, far from the real world?

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I think it would be helpful for children to choose a career in science if they knew what scientists really do and what they really are like. To help children learn more about scientists I’m considering having a “Meet a Scientist Monday” as a regular post. Let me know if you like the idea and even better, if you know of a scientist who would be willing to let me interview him or her.

Here’s an example of a scientist, using information from Dr. Thomas Eisner’s book, “For Love of Insects” and from his website (go visit it just to see his photographs and his FanciFul Designs).

1. What is Dr. Eisner’s scientific field?

Dr. Eisner is a chemical ecologist. That means he studies how insects and other arthropods communicate and defend themselves using chemicals.

2. Does he spend all his time in a laboratory?

No, Dr. Eisner does much of his work outside in natural areas. In fact, he calls himself a field biologist. Dr. Eisner is also a nature photographer, as you can see from his website.

3. Did he always want to be a chemical ecologist?

Dr. Eisner always liked insects, and his father was a chemist, but he didn’t become a chemical ecologist until after he got his PhD degree. He says he had the idea in his mind that he would like to study chemicals and insects, but it wasn’t until he found a special beetle called a bombardier beetle that he was actually able to do it.

4. Where does he work?

Dr. Eisner is a Professor at Cornell University.

5. Why do you call him Dr. Eisner? Is he a medical doctor?

Many scientists go to graduate school for a a degree called a doctorate of philosophy or PhD for short. Anyone who gets a doctorate is called Dr.

6. Does he wear a laboratory coat?

I met him when I went to school at Cornell and he just wore regular clothes.

Do you have any other questions about Dr. Eisner? If so, let me know.

Here is information on two books by Dr. Eisner written for interested adults:

For Love of Insects by Thomas Eisner

Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-Legged Creatures
by Thomas Eisner, Maria Eisner, and Melody Siegler