Who are you?
I am John Coffin, a PhD student in the lab.
Why did you become a scientist?
I have been interested in wildlife and natural history for as long as I can remember. I wanted to be a paleontologist as soon as I saw my first dinosaur skeleton in a museum. While I don’t work with dinosaurs, my work as an evolutionary biologist allows me to piece together information about organisms that are alive today to reconstruct what we think organisms were like long ago, which helps us understand the process of evolution. It is this connection with my earliest interest in science that makes me so passionate about my work.
What are you interested in?
I am really interested in understanding why and how organisms live where they do, which requires an in-depth understanding of the adaptations they have that allow them to survive in their respective habitats. My current work seeks to understand the adaptations in mosquitofish that inhabit creeks contaminated with mine waste, which will hopefully give us information about how animals, including humans, can adapt to pollution.
What do you like best about what you do?
My favorite thing about my job is getting out of the lab and conducting fieldwork. Very few people can say they go fishing for a living.
What were your childhood dreams?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. In fact, I would still drop just about everything in my life and go to space if I was given the opportunity be an astronaut.
What are your aspirations for the future?
After my PhD, I want to be a professor so I can continue my research and help train younger scientists.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
After a day in the lab, I like to go for bike rides or runs around Manhattan, hang out with friends, or grill out with my roommates.