The Making of a Scientist

How Does a Child Become a Scientist

Dr. Lawrence Heaney is one of my favorite scientists, not only because of his work, but his obvious enthusiasm about it. I have had the opportunity to meet him several times and his passion for researching Philippine biodiversity as well as his energy in mentoring Filipino scientists is truly inspiring.

Dr. Heaney works with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and while he has studied other areas around the world, for him, the Philippines offers a fascinating natural laboratory and he has chosen this biodiversity-rich country as his major research area. He started researching here in 1981 and has come back almost every year to do field research, each trip a further opportunity to discover new things, collaborate with other Filipino scientists, and mentor young researchers.

vanishing treasures

Vanishing Treasures of the Philippine Rain Forest, a beautiful book that Dr. Heaney co-authored with Filipino botanist Jacinto Regalado

Today I am thrilled to have stumbled upon an interview with him. There was only one question: how he became a scientist.

His answer was already an article in itself, as he talked about his journey in becoming a scientist, a journey that began from an interest discovered in childhood, which he went on to pursue pretty much the rest of his life because, well, as he said, “it was simply doing what I enjoyed most, and I found it to be wonderful.”

The full article can be found here, but basically, the key ingredients in his answer to the question are that scientists are made because they have:

1) a healthy, natural interest,

2) the opportunity to be exposed to their interest and learn more about it, and

3) the dedication to continue pursuing it, actually creating the opportunities to pursue it.

Larry Heaney in the field. Image from Haring Ibon article, see link below.

Larry Heaney in the field. Image from Haring Ibon article, see interview link below.

It’s a formula that can be applied to just about any field of interest, really, and I hope that with our twins, my husband and I will be able to offer them opportunities to discover their interests and nurture their enthusiasm in pursuing them.

To learn more about why Dr. Heaney finds the Philippines so interesting, check out my interview of him here.

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21 thoughts on “The Making of a Scientist

    • that’s great! how old is she? nurture the interest, always expose her to nature and to whatever branch of science she’s interested in, maybe bring her to places like Science Centrum or Mind Museum? my twins are too young for those, but if your kid’s the right age and you decide to go, please let me know how it turns out!

      and if the following week she decides she wants to be something else, that’s ok too, he he…

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  1. I think this is great Rina, it’s not all the time that we get someone who is interested in the Philippine Forest since the burst of the intermet, I hope this will lure more of the youth to become interested with science amd being a scientist. 🙂

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    • We really have to rehabilitate our forests in the uplands and have more parks in the lowlands so kids won’t miss out on experiencing the beauty of nature! I confess that even I don’t get to experience nature often enough since I’m always stuck at home/in the city, but I wish, I wish! 🙂

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  2. I agree that the key factors apply to other fields as well. It’s up to us to get them started and create opportunities for them and of course to support them all the way. I wonder if my son will consider the field of science as his choice of profession. Too young to tell! Awesome read, btw!

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    • In Dr. Heaney’s story, neither he nor his parents really thought much about it being a career in the beginning. wala lang, basta ginagawa lang niya trip niya. and he kept on doing it until it did become a career! galing! not everyone’s like that though, yung iba paiba-iba ng gusto. like me, minsan he he…

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  3. Wow, I love his answer! It makes a lot of sense because children are naturally curious about the world and how it works. This just strengthens my conviction to homeschool 😀

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    • yes I thought of homeschooling nga when I read it, because it allows flexibility to let kids pay more attention to the things they’re really interested in. on the other hand, Larry Heaney wasn’t homeschooled, but still he made it happen! nasa dedication din talaga! 🙂

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  4. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve encountered someone who has a favorite scientist, hihi,but I agree, pursue a child’s interest more than try to fix his weaknesses is one of the basic principles behind home schooling, because it’s most likely connected to his destiny. 🙂

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    • “To be honest, this is the first time I’ve encountered someone who has a favorite scientist” – ha ha ha! Parang ang pretentious ba? Come to think of it, I guess it does sound a bit weird, but I work in the conservation/environment sector so I get to work with a lot of scientists 🙂

      But actually, I have more favorite writers than favorite scientists. And Dr. Heaney also writes about scientific stuff really well, in a way that can be easily understood by non-science oriented folks. And you don’t often see that kind of skill, so nakakahanga talaga.

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  5. Wow. I think I remember being a scientist as one of my dreams back in elementary. Haha.

    I just hope I become really good at this parenting thing so I could encourage natural curiosity in my daughter.

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  6. Painter! He wants to be a painter. We provided the conditions and materials for him to love painting. I wish we could do the same to spark his interest in science. Thanks for this inspiring post, Rina.

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    • Well, e kung gusto niya talaga sa painting wala ka magagawa ha ha! But expose him to nature a lot, it’s not just for science but can also give him inspiration for painting diba. Galing ko mag-advice pero ako hindi ko rin nasusunod yan he he. Nasa list of good intentions 🙂

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