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Constance Sancetta


Constance Sancetta became fascinated by trilobites at the age of four. She collected seashells, rocks, and minerals and read books about paleontology as a child. In high school she attended a summer camp that taught classes in natural sciences and considered herpetology, cytology, and invertebrate biology as possible fields to study. In her freshman year at Brown University she created a major combining geology and biology, titled Paleontology and Evolution Theory, and in her senior year she did two independent research projects on microfossils of marine plankton. After graduation she worked at Brown for a year as a technician for her advisor; by the end of the year she had decided to become a research scientist. She was awarded a M.S. degree for work on marine microfossils done as a technician and then went to Oregon State University for a Ph.D. in Oceanography. She is now a full-time researcher at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University in New York where her job title is senior research scientist.

Connie is an oceanographer who is especially interested in microfossils and marine sediments. She uses marine microfossils to study changes in the ocean and their relationship to major climatic events such as the Ice Ages. Once every few years she goes on a research cruises with many other scientists to collect samples of marine sediment on the sea floor. She has travelled to Japan, Ecuador, the southwest Pacific atolls, and all over Europe. When she is in New York, she reads publications of others, prepares samples for study, collects data by examining sediments and fossils using the microscope, uses a computer to analyze the data and plot the results, and writes scientific papers describing the results of her work.

In addition to her research commitments, Connie has served on numerous committees and been elected to leadership positions in professional organizations. She reviews manuscripts and recommends them for publication in journals, reviews other scientist's proposals for research and advises the National Science Foundation on which projects are most likely to lead to new understanding, and organizes the program of talks for national meetings of geoscientists.

Connie enjoys the thrill of making a new discovery and likes exchanging ideas with other people to increase our understanding of how the earth responds to climatic change. She is an independent person and likes to direct her own work, a quality that is important for a researcher. She also likes the freedom to set her own work times, and to travel when she wants to. Because her salary is dependent on grants which are awarded on a competitive basis, there is the constant challenge to make her performance visible. Fortunately, she enjoys this.

Connie says that the most important quality for any job is to enjoy what you are doing. If you enjoy it, you will work hard because you want to, and you will succeed because what you are doing is right for you. If you are interested in natural sciences, read books in your library to get an idea what science is all about, visit museums, and take science and math classes.