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The Professor Is In: Erika Crispo

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Dyson Biology Professor Erika Crispo shares how to study for success, why she can’t be bothered with a career in law or politics, and what makes her so passionate about animals and her area of research.

Dyson Professor Erika Crispo, PhD, may enjoy studying fish, but she’s certainly not a fish out of water here at Pace. Since coming to the University from Canada in the fall of 2012, she has taught her students various aspects of biology through innovative classroom activities, has been published in several scientific journals, and continues to study organisms and environments in the New York area. Since completing graduate work on guppies in Trinidad and cichlids in Uganda, she injects her unique experiences abroad and passion for ecology and animals into everything she does, from researching to helping students dive into their course work. Professor Crispo shares her insight on how students can succeed in whatever lane they choose to swim, and expresses her love of animals in this month’s installment of The Professor Is In.

What was one thing or person that made you passionate about your current career?
My professors during my undergraduate career were so passionate about what they did, I was enticed to enter a career in academia. My experience working with my professor and researching Arctic char (a cold-water fish) interested me and I wanted to pursue this type of research.

What quality do you most value in your students?
Their drive to succeed in their careers. When they get really excited about succeeding, it makes me really excited to help them get there.

What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
Focus on understanding the big picture instead of memorizing all the details. I think sometimes students get stressed about memorizing and they don’t understand what they are learning, and there is not going to be a lot they will take with them when they leave Pace. If they focus on understanding it, it will stick with them and lead to wider breadth of skills.

If you had to do it all over again and took another path, what profession would you choose? What profession would you not choose?
If I had to choose something different, I would start my own pet-related business, such as a veterinary hospital or pet day care. I would not choose a career in law or politics.

What is your favorite word? Least favorite word?
My favorite word is “vicinity” because it sounds cool. I don’t have a least favorite word because it is a waste of energy to think about things you don’t like.

What is your guilty pleasure TV show or mobile app?
Game of Thrones.

What was your favorite class as a student? Least favorite?
My favorite classes were statistics and invertebrate zoology. I didn’t have a least favoriteI loved them all. Statistics I loved because it explained how we can draw conclusions from experiments and studies we conduct. Invertebrate zoology is cool because there are so many different animals that we didn’t know much about until we start studying them. Cephalopods were the most interesting to me.

If you were a Pace student, what class would you like to take with another Pace professor?
I would like to take a peace and justice course with Emily Welty or an environmental anthropology course with Judith Pajo.

What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?
Spend more time at the gym.

What is your favorite professional or personal journey/experience?
Having travelled to remote places in Uganda and Trinidad to study fishes. Tourists don’t get to have the same authentic cultural experiences as researchers do when they travel. We went to places where people didn’t interact with people from other countries and got to see what their life is like. We created jobs for people and started a new industry. My advisers have a 20-year established research station where they hire people full-time. They created a new industry with locals working for research in these developing countries. These people can build a career around helping us with our research. We saw the side of how people live when tourists aren’t around.

What is your favorite saying/words to live by?
We are all the products of billions of years of natural and sexual selection. That is pretty darn cool to think about.

If you could have any five people living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
Charles Darwin, Sir Alfred Wallace, Thomas Malthus, Ronald Fisher, and Baba Brinkman.

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