Science and Our Food Supply Careers: Barbara Paul, Ph.D.
"Don't think of math as an insurmountable mountain. Instead, approach the mountain at the base with what you already know and work your way around it to the top."
Food and Drug Administration
Office of Regulatory Affairs
Northeast Regional Laboratory
Jamaica, New York
Field of Expertise:
Bachelor of Science in Microbiology
St. John University
Jamaica, New York
Master of Science and Ph.D. in Biology
University of the West Indies
Jamaica, West Indies
Manchester University School of Medicine
Lab Scientist, Microbiology
Supervisor of Virology
Mt. Sinai Medical Center
New York, New York
"If I hadn't become a scientist, I would have become . . . a foreign interpreter."
Q: What do you do in your current job?
A: I analyze foods from all over the world for contamination by pathogenic bacteria and conduct DNA fingerprinting of bacterial isolates.
Q: You've worked in various countries around the world, how has working abroad helped you in your career?
A: It has made me aware of the impact of microbiology on the lives and livelihood of people in different parts of the world. In my present job, where the accent is on foods, my travels help me identify different foods from countries in which I have lived. I can then help the laboratory staff to determine how these foods should be treated based on the way they are consumed.
Q: How did you become interested in science?
A: As a child, I was very curious. I even conducted my own experiments, such as adding bicarbonated soda or salt to the inside of an acidic fruit and watching it fizz. It was fun to "see" science in action, although at the time I didn't know it was science.
Later on, I found biology exciting. History, on the other hand, was my least favorite subject because I found it much easier to understand scientific concepts, than to memorize historical dates and events.
Q: Was there a teacher who inspired you to pursue your career?
A: Yes, her name was Mrs. Baugh. She was my biology teacher in high school when I lived in Jamaica, West Indies. Mrs. Baugh inspired me by her example. When I was younger, there weren't many females in the field of science. I looked up to Mrs. Baugh for what she had achieved as a female in science. Coincidently, Mrs. Baugh and I we were able to meet up with each other in Jamaica two years ago. Seeing her again brought back many fond memories.
Q: What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in science?
A: Math is necessary for science and life, and it's really not as difficult as it first appears. In fact, don't think of math as an insurmountable mountain. Instead, approach the mountain at the base with what you already know and work your way around it to the top.