In this episode we interview John Farrington, the Dean Emeritus from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution whose research focused on marine organic geochemistry, biogeochemistry of organic chemicals of environmental concern, and the interaction between science and policy. We talk about his serendipitous journey via Marie Curie towards working at WHOI, his world travels as the Chief Scientist on several scientific cruises, his thoughts on how he has seen his field change, and some creative ways he has seen the art world and the science world collide.Support the show
Hi, I'm Rene.
Hi, I'm Sam
Rene and Sam: 0:02
and this is Laboratory Podcast.
Think you're doing a very important thing. I should tell you that I am a history buff. So I completely support what you're doing.
Welcome to laboratory podcast.
Exploring the human side of Science
with recorded interviews of emeritus and retired scientists on the evolution
and history of scientific research throughout their careers.
Hey everyone, welcome back. We've been up to some exciting things this week. Rene, What's been happening?
So there's a few things. The first is that when we are recording this, it is just two days after our first episode has been officially released, and that is super exciting, super terrifying and nerve wrecking. But it's been really wonderful. We've been getting some really good comments back from some listeners, and we've been feeling really supported lately, So that's been really nice. Um, on top of that, I personally finished applying to all of my graduate school programs. So hey, any, uh, PhD advisor out there, it'd be nice? If, like, somebody wants to give me some money and do some research. Um, so it's It's been a busy week, but it's been really, really thrilling time recently. Um, what have you been up to?
Well, it's been also exciting for me. Um, I just started rehearsing for a new musical. Um, new to me, Not new to the world. Um, in Tommy, at Cotuit, Which is exciting. Uh, so if you're in town, the last weekend's of March, come and see me. And also, um, it's my sister's birthday today. So shout out to Sarah. Happy 31st birthday. Uh, and also we are more than 75% fundraised for our IndieGogo. And I'm super excited from the outpouring of support from our community and friends and just want to say thank you again so much. We have a little less than a month left at the time of this recording. And if you donate $50 you have the option of receiving a shout out on the podcast. So here's the first of hopefully many shoutouts. Thank you so much to Karen Connell for donating and helping us get closer to our goal. We are utterly appreciative of your donation. Thank you so much.
And now on to our third interview.
This interview is with John Farrington, the Dean Emeritus of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Rene, how did we find John?
So I have known of him, and John and I have actually attended a few meetings together, and I've seen him at seminars, but it was mainly because a few people told me to reach out to him, and I did. And he was very responsive.
Lucky for us. So without further ado, here's John in his own words, describing how he became interested in studying science, his ascendancy through school and his serendipitous path towards becoming a Marine chemist and ultimately a scientist working at WHOI.
Okay, well, my name is John W. Farrington. I put the W in there because to my family, for years and years, I was known as William. That's what my mother wanted. But when I got the high school, I found out that all the records were John. And so I said, Okay, fine. I am currently the dean emeritus at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which means supposedly, I've retired, although my wife has given me, she said. I flunked it about five times now, so I'm still engaged in various aspects of science. Mainly, I've been focused on chemicals in in the ocean and that includes a deep ocean as was the coastal ocean and specifically on organic chemicals. And even further going into some, uh, detail. It has been natural, occurring organics are those that are bio synthesized and how they move through the ocean and interact with organisms and physical and geological processes. And those chemicals that air of environmental concerns. So things that the general public might know about as oil pollution, PCB's - polycholoronated biphenyls. The early days is DDT, things like that. I was of the generation, for example, that practiced in grammar school duck and cover drills under the desk in case there was a nuclear explosion. Lord knows why anybody ever thought that would be helpful. I suppose it would be helpful to some extent. But in any event, our generation then was mobilized in the United States to a considerable degree by the fact that the Soviet Union put up the first artificial satellite Sputnik, and so we were the U. S. Sputnik generation, and it was considered your national obligation almost to, If you had any interest whatsoever in science, engineering or math that you would go into that particular field, and I did have an interest in that. But I also had an interest in serving the United States in other capacities. Because of the influence of the Cold War and my family, I, uh, my mother Ah, and I were alone and not completely alone. In fact, we're very fortunate that she was taken in and when I was born by her older sister and husband, who are like grand parents to me. And we lived in New Bedford, which is right across Buzzards Bay from us. But there wasn't a lot of money for me to go to college, and even though my mother was a registered nurse, she had gone into a three year school. So I thought about an appointment if I could get one to one of the military academies, and I was sort of interested in the idea of flying, and I did get in an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy. Unfortunately, during the first summer, my football knee, which I had injured in football in my ninth grade year, Excuse me, became inflamed, and that was the end of that. And so what to do in August about getting into a college in September. Fortunately, there was a local college, and I had a long standing interest in chemistry, which was actually stimulated by the fact that my mother insisted that every few months or so we she purchased and I would read series of books called Landmark Books that arrived in the mail. They were about the, you know, the history of George Washington, The life of Abraham Lincoln and so on and so forth, and one that arrived one day was the biography of Marie Curie. Madame Curie was the title of it, and I began reading about Marie and her husband, Pierre, and it was fascinating things that they had done in chemistry. And so my mother and my uncle and I noticed that, and so they at ah, I forget was birthday or holiday, at some point, anyway, a chemistry set appeared, and so my uncle let me set up the chemistry set in the basement on a old workbench. So the idea of a chemistry career seemed reasonable, and I was fortunate to get into what was then the Bedford Institute of technology, which is the local college. It was known as the sidewalk college, and I was fortunate to get a part time job in ah, a bowling alley of all places, working in the evening as an assistant mechanic on pin setters on Saturday and sort of that helped out with the funding, and I lived at home and eventually ended up with the bachelors in chemistry. And along the way, I kept in contact with my high school sweetheart. If we call it that in those days and we did, Shirley, and she went to Nursing School in New Bedford, and when I graduated my bachelor's degree, I was very fortunate that she agreed to marry me. And, uh, we've been married ever since. We've celebrated our 50th anniversary and still going strong. It seemed to me maybe graduate studies and chemistry might work. Shirley had a very good job at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford, and the New Bedford Institute of Technology, which had by now become Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute, and its evolved over the years till now, we sit here with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. But they were starting a master's in chemistry, and so I said, what do you think? Shirley, And she said, Okay, if you want to do that, and I did get some teaching assistantship support and some good experience as a TA - teaching assistant - in freshman chemistry lab and organic chemistry lab. And during that master's degree research, my advisor, Professor Baker, told me that he didn't think that the library at that time of SMTI was sufficient for the background for research which was going to be on enzymes of cold water, fish or biochemistry. And he knew about the Marine Biology Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution library from his own experience. And so he suggested, I come down here and I did. And I went into the library and literally to use that well worn phrase. I thought I had died and gone to heaven because, unlike the library's, I was used to all of a sudden, you know, I was a guest student. I was shown to a desk and stacks and, you know, told that if I wanted to keep the books, I put him on the left on my table, but if I wanted them to be shelved at night, I could put them on the right. But please don't try to put them back yourself because you'll mess it all up. And while I was being introduced, a gentleman went by with its cane walking to his reserve table and the library, said, have you met Dr Szent-Gyorgyi? When I said no, she says, well, he's, he's somebody you might want to say hello to during the day. It's Dr Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, and he's a Nobel Laureate and I said to myself, I don't think I'm going to go up and introduce myself. But he stopped by and sort of nodded to me. And so I told him I was a guest student, and you can sort of get the picture of somebody who just awed by all of the journals and so forth. At the same time, you get tired of writing down... remember, we didn't have Xerox and copying privileges in those days, so you had these little nine by five cards and you noted all your notes down and I got tired of that after awhile, took a break at lunch, one time I was down here -I came several times. And I walked down Water Street and it was at noon time and they were selling sandwiches in the cart ah, across from what's now the CoffeeO, coffee shop. And I saw these people going to RedField Auditorium and I said, what's happening? Oh, they have these noon seminars and you could go to these, Anybody could go! And so I got a sandwich and went in. And to my surprise and delight, they were talking about a recent cruise that had come from, come back from the Sargasso Sea in the Gulf Stream. And they were talking about chemistry in the oceans, and I was hooked. So I went on and talked with Shirley, and I said, "What about PhD Studies?" She said, Okay, it's gonna be a stretch. But she was supportive, and about that time because we wanted to have our family early in life, Karen came along, our daughter, and, uh so but but we made it, and I was fortunate to be accepted at the Oceanography School at URI and went there in the fall of 1968 and studied there. Uh, and my professor was Jim Quinn as an interesting story he was brand new, a lipid biochemist. He had been hired there during the expansion years of Ocean Sciences. And I remember sitting down with some of the more senior graduate students who said, well, you haven't assistantship with him, but it wouldn't be a good idea to do your thesis research because he doesn't have a reputation in the field. And I thought, I don't know. But I went to talk with him and, first, early on after we just talked a little bit, he said, Look, I don't know that much about chemical oceanography. I know a lot about lipid biochemistry. I think there's a lot we can learn about lipid compounds, which are fats and oils in in the marine environment on maybe we can learn about chemical oceanography together. And I thought, "Wow, that's pretty good." So I signed on, and then I was lucky enough to apply for and get one of the first federal water quality administration - we know it now combined as the E.P.A. - pre doctoral fellowships and began working on lipids in Narragansett Bay and particularly we were going to trace the sewage input of land plants through the sewage using specific lipid markers, fatty acids, which had a different composition and land plants than they did in marine organisms and also hydrocarbons, which in land plants, for example, you're familiar with apples and how they have a waxy coating on the outside. Well, a lot of that's hydrocarbons or what we call paraphins. Some of the things that people you know made candles out of it. So forth from whale oil, that sort of thing. And what happened is I went up to measure the Paraphins in the sewage effluent in Providence, Rhode Island. Uh, didn't look like any gas chromatography that we did, didn't look like any paraphins at all. Fatty acids? fine. And we had those and we could see them and we could see the differences going down in a settlements in Narragansett bay from the Providence River down what was called the West Passage. When we looked at the hydrocarbons, we couldn't figure anything out, so we put all that stuff on the shelf, all the gas chromatograms, all the samples went in the refrigerator. And then I happen to be looking at a particular abstract - published abstract from American Chemical Society geochemistry division in which people were studying the microbial degradation of an uplifted oil reservoir in Montana and they showed the gas chromatographic signal of the bio degraded oil. And, the light bulb went off and I went in, you know, took it and showed it to Jim Quinn and said, I think we're looking at chronic oil releases. And of course, today people would say, "Duh", you know how to use that teenage phrase. What didn't you figure out about this? But in those days, people hadn't really done anything to document it. So that's a long story and how I got into the combination of oil, chronic oil pollution and the input in Narragansett Bay and I documented it going down the bay and also its uptake in hard shell clams, quahogs, as we call him here in New England. And during that time, Jim Quinn arranged for me to come over with him to meet Max Bloomer, who was a senior scientist here at the institution. And I met with John Hunt, who is the department chair, of Marine Chemistry at the time, and then I applied for post doctoral fellowship and I was told you know, this is extremely competitive post-doc and you're applying to work with Max Bloomer and he's exceedingly selective, you know, don't count on it. So I was really surprised and happy in the spring when I was called in, 1971 said, "You know, we'd like you to come do a postdoc fellowship with my Max Bloomer. And so that's how I arrived at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
So once John established himself as a post doc at WHOI, his hard work and dedication led him to climb the ladder, becoming an assistant scientist and eventually a senior scientist. Now, a big part of oceanographic research is actually going out on the ocean on what we called research cruises, where scientists collect and process samples for their experiments, eventually bringing them back to the lab as the cruise is completed. However, a cruise is never an easy undertaking, and often has many unplanned twists and turns. Chatting with John about this was fascinating, as he not only has been on a plethora of cruises, but he was able to explain some of the nuances of research cruises as well as provide some stories of a particular cruise, where he was the chief scientist and things definitely did not go as planned.
Oh, the chief scientist. They're usually those experienced with going to sea and also the Principal Investigators on the major grant that has secured the funding, which includes the ship time. But ordinarily, there would be maybe two or three people who were Principal Investigators on grants. So, for example, in my own case, uh, Bob Gragosin would have funding, let's say, from the National Science Foundation, I would have funding from the Office of Naval Research on, and we requested ship time together to look at the upwelling system off Namibia. And, so, Bob came from a background in organic chemistry and hadn't spent a long time at sea. I already had experience, at least on one cruise as being chief scientist in Western North Atlantic and so when it came time, I was the chief scientist. Bob was, you know, obviously Principal Investigator, my responsibilities to make sure that he got the samples his group research group needed and I got the samples that we needed and another person who had two days of ship time support, the late Stan Watson, who was a microbiologist, and John Waterbury was a student at the time was on board and that they got the samples that they would like to have. So that's how that that works. Each cruise goes from port to port with a different route on board, and so you have to, you know, scientists fly out, scientists fly back and things chief scientist has to do in conjunction with the bosun and people back here in Woods Hole, shipping and receiving, and the accounting office is to make sure that we get all of samples and equipment shipped back, which is non trivial. Uh, and it wouldn't happen without all these people in these different places around the institution. So anyway, we ended up having to go to Cape Town, and we were going to be at sea over Christmas and New Year's. So they put into Cape Town, and then Bob goes in and myself and all our group and Stan Watson and others got on board. But getting there we had to fly from JFK and along the coast of Africa on, uh, a flight that stopped at all sorts of different places. And we got to contrast, sir, at that time in Zaire, and it turned at the airspace over Angola because of the Angolan war had been closed. And so there was some question about whether we would even be able to fly in. But finally, after 10 hours, they reflect, they re fuel the flight. We went into the middle of Africa and back into you're an iceberg and then eventually got to kicked out. And then we were off at sea. Do was one of our colleagues and geology and geophysics. And this gives you an idea of all the different things that go into a cruise. Wanted to have a, uh, gravity section, as they called it, the measure. Earth's gravity. And we had instruments on board to do that. But they wanted it parallel to the Karstens far north as we could go with time. We had all allowed from Cape Town. And so we started off doing that first. And in the middle of the night's a CZ, we got closer and closer up to the border between Namibia, Angola. The captain called me to the bridge and said, Well, how far do we need to go? Because the watch officer, the maid had called him up to the bridge and we were approaching but only a large number of fishing vessels that we're showing up on the radar screen. And I said, Well, you know, maybe you No, the hour or so something like that it does speed. I think that gets us close enough to the end objective. At that point, that makes it our captain. They've just jammed our radar. And there it turned out there were a lot of boats speaking Spanish on a few that were speaking Russian, evidently that they recognized on the radio. And the captain looked at me and he said there. So how far do you think we should go? I said, far enough for me on it was because we knew that we had been advised that volunteers from Cuba, assisted by Russian advisers, were helping out with the Angolan war. And that might be a group coming over. And it wasn't the best idea to get entangled. And then from that point, uh, the Atlantis when Atlanta's, too, when a career is close to, uh, a cz close, Antarctica is that kid could to get some samples of sediments for Fritz sales and your chemistry, and then it went into the Indian Ocean for a whole year of different crews. It's before it came back through the So where's Canal? In the Mediterranean and back to what's fall.
In addition to traveling on research vessels, John also had the great fortune to study in Russia as a young chemist. One particularly important chemistry related item that came out of Russia is grenade. Do you know what it is? Chemistry and I are not good friends, so I have no idea. The periodic Table of Elements s Oh, I should have known that. The scientists credited with this achievement is Dimitri Mendel of he's also known as the Father of the Periodic Table and the one who penned this tabular display of a chemical elements back in 18 71. So when John visited and studied in what was then known as the Soviet Union back in the 19 seventies, he was unable to resist enquiring about Mendel of
Rene and Sam: 26:10
through. Just before that cruise, I had the good fortune of being a young scientist in September of 75 part of ah exchange agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States about environmental quality in the ocean s o. I spent 10 days in what was in the Soviet Union, in Moscow, in you, also in the crime area where we could stay. And then each day we traveled to Sevastopol. We could not stay overnight there because that was a close city because of the Black Sea naval base. And then we went toe Leningrad, which is now ST Petersburg. And we got to see a lot of different things. And me, uh, people colleagues, that I'd only read their papers, translated from Russian and maintain contact with them over the years on. And we had cultural visits. In each case. The most important, I would say the most important. But perhaps the most interesting one for our discussion here was is we were going from the airport to our hotel in ST Petersburg. The scientists do at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, who spoken wonderful English. My Russian was dying yet placebo. Things like that. What? Yes, Niet is No Bathsheba is Thank you on uh but in any event, he said, Oh, down the street is where Mendeleev had its apartments and they still have a little museum there and they said, Can we go see this? And he's Well, it's not on the schedule. But the next morning they arrived at the hotel on. We'd stayed over. There were two of us, Pete Rogerson from the Environmental Protection Agency and myself on we had They allowed us to stay quote unquote alone. But we knew there was a minder with us in the in the room, in the breakfast room in the hotel. But that's fine. That was all part of the deal. But they came at breakfast since it quick, we must go on. And they took us down there and they took us to the street and drove up in front of the mental Layoff Apartment Museum. And we got out and we had our pictures taken in front of it, and we thank them so much. Oh, it was great. And they said, Oh, no, no, no. They went up. Knocked on the door. The curator opened the door. Welcome to Stine. Had us put on white gloves, lifted the purple robe barrier that you normally see in museums and stuff on. Dhe sat me down at what he said was mental lapse desk unlocked the drawer and pulled at the notebooks that had the original notations of the periodic table of elements. I was blown away, to say the least. I mean, I'm a chemist for Crandall. I mean, who who hasn't said memorize the periodic table again? But it's important. Play in chemistry
after learning about the place is John's research has taken him. We then switched gears and discuss changes in technological advances that occurred throughout his career. He discusses too important developments. That happened, the first of which is about a mass spec and the second of which is the C T D. A few definitions as we learn about these technologies, a mass spectrometer or a mass spec is an analytical technique that measures the master charge ratio of ions, where the results are typically presented as a mass spectrum, which is a plot of intensity as a function of the master charge ratio. And a UV is an autonomous underwater vehicle, which is a machine that oceanographers deploy in the ocean and will explore and sample the waters while the scientists remain on the boat. This could be closely called a robot. A C T. D is an instrument that measures conductivity, temperature and death. If you calibrate the conductivity, you can measure the solemnity because assaults in the seawater are conductive. Temperature and salinity are key parameters in oceanography because it is heat and the salt content that controls the density ingredients in the ocean. Now they're definitely won't be a test on these definitions. But they sure will help you understand these two upcoming anecdotes
Rene and Sam: 31:01
when I can't the Woods hole. It was to learn her to do gas chromatography mass spectrometry because Max Bloomer was one of the few people, if not the only person at a Marine lab that had interfaced. He built it himself and interface with gas chromatograph for the mass spectrometer based on a design that had been published by Klaus Pieman, who is professor at M I. T. Who we talked with, Lord, Uh, not long thereafter, you know, we used to have these big chart. It got printed out as a result of the mass spec, and you had to sit down and count 500 peaks on this light beams telegraph, and then measure with your divider the height of the peak, and then record all that in a table and then plot it all up on these huge graph papers. It was so you were lucky to get, you know, maybe one or two, man inspector a week, if you could.
How long would you say that process?
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Oh, from extraction Through the process, I would say it was, you know, certainly two days, our eight hour work day. Maybe I'm overstating the case, but in any event that somebody came along and put the man put the computer on the end of the whole thing, and and then the computer's got faster and faster and faster. Okay, But then there was another one other. Yeah, you know, thing that that, uh, we were, you know, we guarded that mass spectrometer from all sorts of interactions with the elements, you know? You know nicely. Your condition temperature controlled room labeled bottom, stuff like that. Okay, so that's 1972 to 76. Roughly along comes the deepwater horizon oil spill. Uh, you know, 22 one over people here in the oceanographic Institution in the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department. Rich committee interacting with Kris Reddy, who took over my lab. Plus a lot of other stuff. Very bright guy. They go out in, the crew's on. They don't bring the water sample up on board and extracted and putting the mass spectrometer, Richards figured out a way to put the mass spectrometer into an Anton Amiss vehicle in along with Dana Younger down It goes into the not Dana with its, but he's on the ship. Okay. And, uh, you know, this instrument goes through the plume and measures quantitatively the various aspects of light. Milica wait. Hydrocarbons. And and so, you know, here's his instrument. You know, we tried to protect as best we could to keep it from ever getting any water or pressure or any of these other things. And all of a sudden, it's not the same instrument, but it's an evolution. You get what? I'm getting it, okay? I mean, now you can put this thing. Not only that, but you can pre program it or you couldn't send it signals in it does its own search pattern. That stuff. When I started off on an ocean cruise, okay, we were using we're called Nansen Bottles and reversing Thermometers Day. And what that amounted to was, uh, putting a whole bunch of you stand out on what? There's a little platform off to decided a ship usually on the second deck level, but not always called the hero's platform for reasons that sometimes it rough seas that went underwater if you weren't in and you had to be tied in and so forth. But you would hang these Nansen bottles on there and they were maybe, you know, three feet along meet along. Maybe it will lessen that on dhe, Maybe, I don't know, 15 centimeters, whatever in diameter. And then they had to thermometers on on the side, one of which was protected thermometer, meaning that it had protection against step any other, which didn't. I'll come back to that in just a minute and so down you put all these things maybe 15 of them, and down it would go on if you're going to 4000 meters s so you could figure it out, the fastest you would goes maybe 50 meters a minute, show you there a long time putting it down, and then if it was really lucky on it was relatively calm. You could feel what happened next. Which would you put around the wire clipped around the wire sort of turned it in the middle, which was called a messenger. Now, each of those Nansen bottles had underneath it a messenger suspended on hooked into it. So down this messenger would go down this hydro wire, which was, you know, a thin wire. And you could just put your fingers around the wire and you could hear you could feel it rather hit the first and trigger it. And what that happened, this the bottle would flip over. And when it did it closed, I won't go into all of the exact mechanisms. Preys. And what happened then, was that the thermometer, uh, that had reached a certain level with the mercury and stuff. Okay. When it flipped, those mercury columns broke right at the place where the temperature waas. And then you could feel the next messenger hit the next bottle and so forth all the way down. Now, if you couldn't feel that you allowed what you hoped was enough time for it to get down and you brought two things up and you bring it up and you put it over on a rack on. There was all of this off on Iraq off on a rack off on Iraq and okay, then people would come along with this magnifying type thing and you read the two thermometers. Now one of them was a protected tomorrow. Mint or any other? Wasn't Okay, so the unprotected thermometer, obviously when it was down, if 4000 meters was squeezed a bit, Okay, so where It's Mercury column. Waas was a little bit higher than what it was now when it was on the deck. But these were paired thermometers that had been very carefully calibrated in a pressure lab here at the Oceanographic Institution or any other place that had these types of things. So then people came along and read it and somebody else Check the readings and you get the temperatures. And from the differences in the two thermometers, given the calibrations of the thermometers, you could get an exact depth at which the sample has been taken. Because, you know, these wires it down there and they're moving around a little bit. It's, um it's a very precise thing. Okay. Somewhere in the mid seventies, we started to get these and they they were developed before that, but they became routine. We use called, you know, see TDs, conductivity, temperature depth systems that went on the bottom of an instrument package and was hooked up to a conducting cable. And wait until you get that down, you know, down profile. And then you had it was in a rosette with these big disk in bottles around it and come back up all that was like a good depth. Something happened in there. You press the trigger in it in the lab, and it would close the thing. Okay, so that's an example. Okay, which you know, uh, revolutionised how much data could be a Tate and how quickly and how easily. And now we have floats and gliders and everything collecting all of that data autonomously out there, coming up to the surface, turning sideways with their little transmitting Finn, and sending the data back to satellite. So I've seen all in my career. It's amazing. Conductivity, temperature, depth. Now, why isn't conductivity? Because solidity the salts in seawater conductive. So if you calibrate the conduct in CE, you can get a measurement of solemnity. And temperature and solidity are key parameters because its heat and the salt content that controls the density. Grady INTs in the ocean
Life can be hard for an active scientist doing such dynamic research all over the world. One of the more human aspects of the scientific world is the family work balance. When we asked about how John made this balance work in his career, he readily champions his family and particularly his partner, Shirley. He gave us a very sweet anecdote about what family life was like during his time as a scientist.
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There is a reason that many of my colleagues talk about my wife is ST. Surely it's because I couldn't have done any of this without her. And I couldn't have done any without the understanding of the Children. But talking with him Now, even on they're all grown up and they have Children of their own, you know, married, have Children of their own. There were times where I think, you know, they would've much rather had me around, you know, most of the time I was I wasn't gone more than a month. And so if you compare that to what our service, women and men go through today and even if you think about the roar, too. I mean, that guy in for four years I mean, good Lord, I can't. I mean, you can imagine, and you could read stories about it, but it's not living it. I do remember one time that I thought was very interesting. And that is my wife went back to work when the Children get a little bit older as a registered nurse locally and film with in one of the nursing arms and she was in charge of the floor. Geriatric nursing at I'll tell you about the First is family related in the sense that that we used to have the Children sit at the table at dinner. You know, we tried to make it a point that we were all there and have a discussion. I was your day blah, blah, boys. So it turned out it was my turn to start. How was your day, Dad? Well, cash today, I got the reviews back for my NSF proposal at I don't know where these people, you know, these reviewers of living, but I got a recent mental proposal. I put all this time and effort into it, and, you know, it's kind of a downer of a day blah, blah, blah. That was my son, asking the question. My daughter system. How was your day, Mom? She said I Well, I had Thio admit a person who is upset their family was with him, but they were upset because they thought the family was putting you in the nursing home to get rid of them and steal their house. And the family is upset because they thought that that was happening. And it was, you know, Avery complicated, uh, situation. And then I remember Dad talking about Captain so and so that he met. And, you know, we've had some good stories about him. Will, he died today. I sort of looked at me and he said, Well, Dad, I guess that puts your day in perspective and it was absolutely correct.
We're always intrigued about what each scientist has to say. When we ask about any advice, they might give up incoming scientists and how they confessed, communicate science with the general public. John, when asked, emphasized that to do this, you need a hook and you need people to say things and understandable ways as well is to never limit yourself creatively. when it comes to thinking outside of the box whether it is in or out of the lab. One such example that captivated his attention and ours when he brought it up was a musical entitled Poor Little Nitrogen, which he experienced while serving on a review board Looking at the Sea Grant program at the University of Rhode Island As total musical theater nerds ourselves, we couldn't resist asking him to expand on this. So he did, as well as following up with his advice to scientists.
Rene and Sam: 44:15
One of the more interesting experiences are had along these lines. I was under Review Group looking at the Sea Grant program at the University of Rhode Island Oceanography School and part of Secret and, of course, is communicating as well as funding science. And what happened is they had a program that they had funded for the undergraduate theater majors at University. Rhode Island, too, interact with the scientists, and they came up with a musical. It was called Poor little Nitrogen, and it was about a diatonic nitrogen, which is a very inert gas, and the fact that nobody cared about poor little nitrogen, the dye atomic gas. But if you put it together with oxygen or you put it together with hydrogen and they had a musical about this whole thing and on and on and on. And it went, you know, from nitrogen in the atmosphere through nitrogen and all the bad things that would happen. But nitrogen was still needed in order to have plant growth blah, blah, But it was amazing. Here is the thing, Okay, you have a career. You want to have three things. You want to have a roof over your head, food on the table, and you want to be happy at what you're doing. Sometimes you have to give a little bit of the happiness up from time to time in order to get the roof in the food. But don't neglect the happiness. Follow the advice of two people that I have looked to in the past for guidance, and I've stumbled on them through my readings and advice from others. The 1st 1 I think I've already mentioned, which is Louis Pastor. Chance favors the prepared mind, which means don't become too narrow. Be ready for surprises. Open your mind to a whole bunch of different things in reading don't just dig in and focus on what you're doing. The second quote that I have is from a person who I think most people thought was pretty dull and pedantic and so forth. And that was John Adams, who was the second president of United States. But there's a great quote from John Adams, and I have that at the end of money Emil address, which is let us dear, to think, to speak and to write. Which means don't let anybody tell you that that your flights aren't important and make sure you communicate them in a way that makes sense. But don't be afraid to speak. And there have been times when I've been almost incoherent because I was worried. The worst thing in the world that anybody could do is to say, Believe me, I'm telling you this. I'm a scientist. You should believe me. We have to make sure that the science is credible, and we also have to make sure that the science is understood. We just don't need that kind of arrogance in the approach to these problems. Not every scientist is going to be good at this, and that's fine. Uh, some of their colleagues can help out. Well, I would say is, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you in whatever you do with it on with your audience
way. John has had quite the journey. It was
kind of hard for me to keep up with all of his work in world Travels. What an accomplished guy. Renee, what are your thoughts? I thought that I really loved all of his attic books that he had. They were so diverse and interesting to learn from, but the ones that really stood out to me the most were of regarding the changes in technological advances. We use a U. V's with so many tools and technologies on them all the time, and we do multiple CT de casts a day on research cruises nowadays that it is mind boggling to me that they started out with multiple thermometers, having to wait until they came aboard to see if they actually got this information. When nowadays we can sit in our control room and watch in real time as we gather this data and we could see what the ocean below us is telling us. So that was really fascinating learning about the differences and how they had Thio conduct these experiments. What did you think was the most interesting? Well, I was definitely intrigued about a story on Mandalore and how he was so excited to visit his workspace while studying in the Soviet Union. It makes me have hope that things like science and art can bridge gaps in our communities and bring us closer together. I also thoroughly appreciated his anecdotes about family life. I found it very touching. I did as well is very nice. So thank you again to John for sharing your story with us this week. You are really great to learn from. Thank you, John. It was amazing to interview
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Rene and Sam: 50:31
I had a great cartoon originally, I outline, but then graphics people improved it of a car driving down the road with a sad expression on its face, with little drops of oil coming out from the bottom. And I said, You know, if you think about it, we're all driving cars around and got into a parking lot sometime after there's a rainstorm and you can see sort of a rainbow sheen. And that's this oil that's dribbling away. And there's thousands of these dribble dribble dribble dribble dribbles that are going on and they all get swept into the storm sewers. And then they get focused. And that's why we have chronic oil pollution in harbors like Boston Harbor. It's not just little oil spills, its not shift ships, things like that. It's everything we do driving a room. And when it came time for you know, I went on another discussions, and when I can't keep time for the questions, this young man must been about 10 or 11 raised his hand, he said. I was thinking about what you said about those cars in drops And how many cars drive on the Southeast Expressway and there must be thousands. So that's like thousands and thousands of drops. At which point, I mean, I was so excited. I said, Folks, I'm glad you all came tonight, but for me, this is worth the whole effort.