The Nerdiest Non-believer of them All – It’s PZ Myers!
You know him as the fearless and godless blogger behind Pharyngula, whose demands were quickly heard during his recent blogging strike to protest the chaotic happenings at Science Blogs…but do you know him like I do??
Dr. Paul Myers is a professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris. There’s a LOT of info readily available on the net for our dear PZ with respect to his blog and his research interests, so I thought I’d ask some friendly questions to learn a little more about just what makes him tick…
By the way…this is a somewhat truncated version of Nerd Corner, seeing as there was a large and rather ravenous crowd stacked up behind me eagerly awaiting their chance to speak with Dr. Myers after his recent lecture in Vancouver, BC. I got there first though…SNAP!
CB: What’s a typical work day like for you?
PZ: When the semester starts, I’ll be teaching 2 courses with a total of 4 lecture sections and one lab section, so most days I’ll be spending about 4 hours on lecture prep, 2 hours in class, and a few hours each day dealing with students (the last bit varies: maybe 0 hours early in the term, rising to as much as 6 hours before an exam). If I’m lucky, I’ve got a couple of students working in the lab, and I’m helping them figure out how to work with itty-bitty embryos. Then there’s the committee work, maybe a few hours a week, and the grading, which also varies week by week, and I often put it off to the weekend, when I can. And then roughly every other week, I fly off somewhere to give a lecture. So, basically, the middle of my day is entirely occupied with teaching.
I get up around 5:30, put in an hour or two throwing stuff together for the blog, which I schedule to appear during the course of the day, and once I get home I’ll putter about on the blog some more. I’ll usually get to bed around midnight.
CB: Any advice to budding biologists?
PZ: Right now if you study biology, you will often get sidetracked into the details, like mastering the biochemistry of the cell or something like that. What students really need to do is step back and get a wider view of the field. Breadth is as important, if not MORE important than depth.
CB: Do you have any non-biology or blog-related talents or interests?
PZ: No, not a one. I’m a very boring person.
Actually, I read more or less constantly. Either I’m poring through some recent science papers, or when my brain is running a little slow, I’ll read a SF novel or two. I try to get some exercise by doing all my errands on foot — I live in a small town, so it’s entirely practical to go grocery shopping or banking or head off to the coffee shop without driving, so I usually put in a mile or three walking. I make it a point to go to the local movie theater once a week, no matter what’s showing…which means I’ve seen a lot of very bad movies.
CB: Hey good on you! In another life I owned a small town movie theatre, it’s a tough business.
PZ: I’ve also played a bit of World of Warcraft now and then, but that’s had such a low priority that I’ve rarely gotten around to it anymore, and cancelled my subscription. Maybe some day I’ll have a little more free time…it’s not happening right now.
CB: If you could have 3 guests for dinner, alive or dead, who would they be?
CB: Goodness! That would be a boisterous table! Darwin gets a lot of invites among my nerds!
CB: What would you eat?
PZ: I would make a phylogenetic stew, where you try to throw in as many phyla as you can…lots of seafood!
CB: Thanks for your time PZ! I’ll see you on your blog