(or How I got into science)
In 2006, I was just starting my last year at the University of Economics and Business Administration in Vienna, Austria, my hometown. I was focused on my goal to have a career in business as a management consultant in a big company and earn tons of money. – And then I went on my exchange semester to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and decided to take a biology class in addition to my business classes, just out of curiosity, to get a glimpse of a different field since that is not something the Austrian university system typically encourages.
I graduated from business school with an MSc in International Business Administration in 2008. Three years later with a great deal of passion and determination to study ants for the rest of my life, two years of learning and working at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, a year of basic biology classes at the University of Vienna, a trip to Guatemala and Borneo…I’m a biologist, exploring the tropics, chasing around ants in the jungle, answering exciting science questions.
What happened? – Honestly, I don’t know. I fell in love with ANTS, randomly. No background in biology, no particular science exposure when growing up, nothing that could have suggested this sudden change in life focus.
And now I am the happiest person in the world – and I didn’t even know that a profession like this would exist for me; growing up and being taught that a job is something you need in order to survive and earn money, not necessarily something that should be fun. But let’s face it – if you do something you love, there’s a whole different energy to it, so much more power and motivation which almost inevitably leads to success (cause giving up is not an option anyways).
And last but not least, after talking a bit about my journey, I can’t help but mention a few people. I couldn’t have done it by myself, when I was armed with nothing but my passion for ants, I had amazing support from people who believed in me, facilitated, encouraged and taught me. Dr. Herbert Zettel (Natural History Museum Vienna), Dr. Chris Smith (Earlham College, Indiana), Dr. Martin Pfeiffer (National University of Mongolia), Dr. Andy Suarez (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Dr. Rob Dunn (North Carolina State University). Thank you.