William Smith

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

Degree                                  Ph.D.
Position                                Professor and Charles H. Babcock Chair in Biology
Department                          Biology Department
Organization                        Wake Forest University, North Carolina

william_smith_profileWhen did you become interested in ecology?

I became interested after reading an article in Reader’s Digest about the application of physics to biology. The article was titled “Bionics” and gave several examples of physical processes like bat/moth radar interactions and porpoise sonar, etc. I started out wanting to begin a coaching career in basketball at a JC in California after obtaining a MS degree. But then I became interested in research and went after the PhD. I liked the freedom of doing field research and linking physics and biology. What other career would allow me the freedom to study what I wanted, when and where I wanted?

Describe 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?

I originally wanted to be a marine ecologist so that I could stay around the beach environment. My MS was in intertidal ecology (fiddler crabs), but I converted to plants because there was much more sophisticated and natural ecophysiology that could be done. I have training in biophysics and have held permanent academic positions at Univ Wyoming and Wake Forest Univ with short-term appointments at the Univ of Hawaii and The Univ of Western Australia

What key advice would you offer a student today?

I would recommend that a student gain strengths in another field besides ecology, e.g. chemistry, math, physics, computer science, etc. These are the people today making the strongest contributions to ecology.

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