NAME: Dean R. Lomax
CURRENT TITLE: Palaeontologist; Honorary Scientist at the University of Manchester (UK); Honorary Research Associate at Doncaster Museum (UK)
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Palaeontology, ichthyosaurs
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 8 (unless you count my interest from childhood!)
EDUCATION: I took a rather unusual approach into palaeontology. Essentially, I wanted to gain a little experience in this vast field, but one thing led to another, and it now brings me to where I currently am in my career. However, I am, as mentioned above, an Honorary Scientist at The University of Manchester whereby I am a specialist advisor for students. I am also just about to complete my MPhil degree.
What’s your job like?
One word — awesome! My job varies from scientific research to excavating dinosaurs and holding lectures at institutions around the world. However, to cover some points specifically: My research interests are broad. However, I am regarded as an expert on Jurassic ichthyosaurs (swimming marine reptiles that superficially resemble dolphins) and have an interest in their evolution, diversification and palaeobiology. Most of my academic research has been as lead author and has focused on this topic. This has included naming new species, the first occurrence of specimens in the fossil record, and new material known to science, as well as rediscovering a host of material hidden away in collections. To help disseminate my research, I hold various lectures in palaeontology at numerous institutions, professional conferences, schools, etc. I spend lots of my time working with a variety of museum collections, and identifying, researching and completely revitalizing palaeontology collections, along with creating displays. Aside from this, I may often be out in the field, whether it’s searching for fossils in the UK on the Yorkshire coast or digging up dinosaurs under the harsh heat of the USA badlands. Apart from academic research, I also write books, including the well perceived, Dinosaurs of the British Isles (published by Siri Scientific Press – www.siriscientificpress.co.uk). Finally, as part of my work as a palaeontologist, I am actively involved with the media and in contact with television, radio, and newspapers regarding the latest research in palaeontology.
What’s a typical day like?
Huh, what’s one of those? As you can probably tell from above, my days are never quite typical. It may consist of research in a museum collection, travelling to a random location to see a new fossil, being filmed talking about fossils or working from the office at home.
Honestly, I enjoy all aspects of the science of palaeontology. Essentially, I have a real passion for anything paleontological and put 100% into all of the studies I am involved with, as well as publications and research endeavors. But, perhaps above all, the most fun part is that I am making a difference and others are learning from my work(s). As a great example, the publication of the book (Dinosaurs of the British Isles) allows readers to understand and appreciate the sheer significance and history of dinosaurs in the British Isles. This will hopefully inspire future palaeontologists and scientists, something that means a lot to me.
There are lots of challenges that face palaeontologists, although I guess the primary challenge is the lack of permanent jobs. But, perhaps the most challenging part of my work is writing peer-reviewed papers. They take time, diligence and a whole-load of effort. However, it is great, knowing that your research is helping piece together a humongous jigsaw puzzle of our ancient planet.
What’s your advice to students?
Do something that you love. Never accept second best, always aim high, stay dedicated and believe in yourself. Don’t lose sight of your goals and make them a reality. Anything is genuinely possible. Think of the bigger picture you want to achieve.
“Remember, a piece of paper does not make you a scientist, what you contribute to the science does.”