The Evolution of an Expert: Paul Turner

Article excerpt

Title: Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Education: Ph.D., Zoology, Michigan State University; B.A., Biological Sciences, University of Rochester

Age: 36

It is expected that by the time Dr. Paul Turner comes up for tenure, the Yale University scientist will have established himself as the world's "leading expert" on his research in evolutionary biology. In his second year at the New Haven, Conn.- based Ivy League institution, Turner is in the earliest stages of an academic research and teaching track in the ecology and evolutionary biology department that will last roughly 10 years before tenure can be attained.

"It's a very rigorous process. The result is that by the time someone gets tenure, he or she will be the leading expert on his or her research specialty," Turner says.

Since completing a doctorate at Michigan State University, Turner has had three postdoctoral fellowships to refine the scope of his research, which includes the evolution of viruses, virus ecology and genetics, and the evolution of infectious diseases. With an interest in the global fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Turner wants to make a contribution to the understanding of how viruses and infectious diseases evolve and reproduce.

"I would like to see my work impact society in some way," he says.

Turner recalls that during his childhood years in Syracuse, N.Y., he nurtured a deep fascination with science and nature. He credits his minister father for helping instill in him a religiously inspired respect for knowledge and learning. His schoolteacher mother pushed Turner and his siblings to excel academically, he says.

Attending the University of Rochester, a school noted for its science and engineering programs, as an undergraduate proved decisive for Turner, whose original college focus was as a pre-med student majoring in biomedical engineering. …