NAME: Paolo Viscardi
CURRENT TITLE: Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology, University College, London, United Kingdom
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Palaeontology, zoology, biomechanics
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: 15+
EDUCATION: I studied biology and geology as a Joint Honours BSc at the University of Bristol and Animal Physiology and Nutrition as a postgraduate at the University of Leeds.
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paoloviscardi/with/22891200461/
What’s your job like?
I have recently started a new job as curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology, where I have the responsibility for managing and interpreting the collections. This means my role is incredibly varied. It includes supporting researchers, students and artists who want to use the collections, writing about the collections, providing interviews for the media about relevant topics and identifying and documenting objects in the collections.
What’s a typical day like?
Curatorial roles are incredibly varied, and I’m still so new that I have yet to work out what a typical day is like! In the last month, I have identified and documented specimens, supported undergraduate teaching, been interviewed for radio, provided professional training, spoken at a large conference, written several blog posts, repaired cabinet keys, cleaned floors and worked with an artist to interpret priceless artworks at Tate Britain from a scientific perspective. Needing to answer emails is about the only thing that I can be sure I’ll need to do every day – apart from never quite knowing what’ll be coming next!
As a scientist by training, I have discovered that working with artists can be a lot of fun. They often view the world from a very different perspective. By working with them, I have gained an insight into the diversity of ways in which humankind makes sense of our world.
I find that communicating science to non-specialist audiences also provides an opportunity for dialogue that challenges my understanding of the universe. Questions asked by non-scientists will often be unexpected, but often insightful and fascinating to consider and attempt to answer from a scientific perspective.
Finding time to do everything that I want to do is my biggest challenge. With such a diverse role, there will always be tensions between different aspects of my job. There are seldom enough hours in the day to spend as long as I’d like on the fundamental collections work that museums depend on to make the best use of specimens.
What’s your advice to students?
Work hard, get involved in extracurricular activities that relate to your area of interest and make sure you develop good relationships with other people in the field. A career is built on more than academic achievement. Being recognized as someone dedicated to your field, who can work well with others, will stand you in good stead for the future.