Science and Our Food Supply Careers: Roberta M. Hammond, Ph.D.
"In this field, you have to be a good talker and a good listener, and you have to like it!"
Biological Administrator II
Florida Department of Health
Fields of Expertise:
Food and Waterborne Disease Epidemiology
Florida Keys Community College
Key West, Florida
Associate of Arts in Biology
Florida State University
Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology
Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Anthropology
(while in high school)
(while in college)
Food Harvesting, Production, Processing, and Serving Worker
(various positions held in the state of Florida)
Franklin County Health Department
"If I hadn't become a scientist, I would have become . . . a professor of French, anthropology professor, weaver, beader, or potter."
Q: What do you do in your current job?
A: I coordinate food and waterborne disease surveillance and investigations for the State of Florida. I work with nine field investigators, providing them and county health departments with information, training, and technical assistance. During foodborne outbreaks, my role is to provide information to all who need it (e.g. agency managers, other states, federal agencies, and the public). Good mediation and diplomatic skills are helpful in this field. Also, you have to be both a good talker and a good listener, and you have to like it!
Q: What were your favorite subjects in school?
A: In school, I enjoyed math because I was really good at it. In college, my favorite course was paleopathology (the study of prehistoric diseases). I liked being able to look at skeletons and tell what diseases that person had during their lifetime.
Q: Have you been involved in any new scientific discoveries during your career?
A: Yes, our state was the first to have an outbreak of Salmonellosis linked to fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Q: What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in science?
A: Don't be too narrow - it's easy to put on blinders and close your mind to other fields or disciplines that might be useful to you. Take at least one foreign language, preferably two. Also, some of your best experience comes from learning on the job, so don't be afraid to start at the bottom and work your way up. Learning your basic skills well, such as writing, math, and science, along with creative problem solving, will take you a long way in building your career of choice.