Douglas Hileman

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.

Degree                                          Ph.D 1981 (University of Michigan)
Position                                        Associate Professor
Department                                  Biology Department
Organization                                Tuskegee University, Tuskegee AL

douglas_hileman_profileDescribe your route to a career in (or using) ecology. What challenges did you need to overcome? What was your training, and what positions have you held?

As an undergraduate at Case Western Reserve University. I started out as a computer science major and got disillusioned with that field. So as a junior I switched to biology, which had always been a second choice field. I started introductory biology in the middle of the course and got the parts on plants and ecology first. The instructor, Gerald Rosenthal was instrumental in peaking my interest in these fields. I then elected several ecology and field courses from him and his colleague, O.E. Elzam, which further increased my interest in plant ecology.

My route was pretty straight forward: B.S. in Biology from Case Western Reserve University, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Botany from the University of Michigan (specializing in plant ecology). I taught at Colby College in Maine for one year as a sabbatical replacement instructor in plant ecology, then accepted a faculty position at Tuskegee University. My biggest challenge was finding a job after graduation. As part of the baby-boom and as part of the group of students who got interested in ecology from the environmental movement of the late 60s and early 70s, many faculty positions for which I applied had between 50 and 100 applicants. I applied to about 100 positions over two years before being offered the position at Tuskegee University.

After undergraduate school, I felt that I still did not know enough about ecology, so I went to graduate school at the University of Michigan. As most of the faculty and graduate students there were oriented towards careers in research and education, I fell into this mode as well. I never really learned much about alternative careers in ecology until I became involved with SEEDS. I am an Associate Professor of Biology. I teach courses in Environmental Biology, General Botany and General Ecology on a regular basis. I have also taught General Biology and Plant Physiology. I do research on the phototosynthetic responses of plants to elevated carbon dioxide. I supervise masters graduate students in their research and advise and assist undergraduate students with course selection and career guidance. I serve on several university and state-wide committees.

What key advice would you offer a student today?

Explore a variety of career options. Do not limit yourself to traditional careers. Try out various careers through internships and volunteer work. Pick a career that you are genuinely interested in. All careers are hard work, but if you enjoy your work, you will find it much easier to put in the effort to become successful.

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