Robert M. Thorson
This professor-geologist slouched into op-ed journalism along a career path that makes sense only in retrospect. As a high-school kid in the late-1960s I was assigned to sit in Jackass Row by my English teacher, for what I now realize were two lifelong personality traits, strong opinions and a thick skin.
In college, I flirted with deep ecology before the word was invented. In graduate school, I honed my analytical skills while writing a dissertation involving glaciology and crustal geophysics. After that, my wife and I raised four children whose differing educational needs forced me to grapple with the politics of disability, tracking in education, nature vs. nurture, and the toxicity of American youth culture. And for fun, I wrote a few books about stone walls that did quite well, thereby learning the true meaning of "publish or perish."
One day, a veteran journalist recruited me to submit articles to major regional newspapers, especially The Courant. All were published. The next thing you know, I was first scientist to write a regular op-ed columnist for The Courant. That was more than 10 years ago.
My columns reflect the opinions of a lifelong natural scientist committed to wider science literacy in American culture. They are voluntary public-service contributions that, for me, are less boring than meetings and less painful than politics. They express intellectual independence because the security of my day job -- a tenured full professor -- insulates me from political, economic and collegial revenge. They deal with whatever is trending for me at the time.