Meet Michi!

Who are you?

I am Michi Tobler. I am an Associate Professor in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University.

Why did you become a scientist?

I have always been interested in nature. As a kid, I spent my time in the Swiss woods looking for critters and especially loved looking for animals that live in and around water. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that there are actually careers that would allow me to do this as my job. I ultimately chose to become a scientist, because there is no better way to spend your time at work than doing what your passionate about. I like exploring biodiversity and learn about why animals work the way they do.

What are you interested in?

I am particularly interested in understanding why animals look the way they do and figuring out where new species come from. I also have a notoriously short attention span, so I like juggling different kinds to projects that investigate the same problem from different angles.

Why is your work exciting?

My work is so exciting because every day I get to think about what we don’t know, and how we could go about learning about the unknown. There is no better feeling that spending time in the field and in the lab collecting data, and – often after much agony – have that moment where you are the first person to know and understand something nobody else does. Sharing that new knowledge with other people gives me a deep sense of satisfaction.

What do you like best about what you do?

I like that no day is like the other. Everyday poses a new problem that needs to be solved. I like that my job involves lots of interactions with people – students and colleagues – that I really care about. At the same time, I get to spend time by myself, thinking, analyzing data, making graphs, and writing. I really do like writing a lot.

What were your childhood dreams?

I had no clue that I could become a scientist one day. So, my dream was to work in a pet shop or a zoo, where I could interact with exotic animals.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I want to spend more time interacting with people outside of the university community. Science has so much to offer to our society, and I hope to spread enthusiasm for science especially in kids.

Who or what inspires you?

Nature and my students. Spending time outside and observing animals in their habitat leads me to think about new questions that others may not have thought about. In a similar vein, my students keep challenging me, often asking questions that I don’t know the answer to. That keeps me on my toes to learn about things that I don’t know about.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

When I have time off, I love spending time with my family. We like to take care of our homestead (with too many pets), try out new recipes, and eat. I also enjoy photography, stomping around in the woods, and hanging out with friends. When everybody else is asleep, I like watching a movie or reading a book.