What Does a Science Professor Do?

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  • Written By: Ray Hawk
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 22 February 2020
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The duties of a science professor can vary considerably depending on the level of education in which he or she works, as well as the type of science on which is focused, which can range from the life or physical sciences to technical fields associated closely with engineering such as computer science. In the UK, professors are considered to be upper-ranking university academics who are often department heads, whereas, in other western nations like the US and Canada, the term is much more loosely applied to science teachers at both two- and four-year institutes of higher education. The general formal duties of a science professor, however, include conducting original research and publishing their findings, teaching students that often includes mentoring graduate students, and representing their educational institution in the public spotlight.

A science professor is required to have a minimum of 8 years of post-secondary education at the level of a doctoral degree that qualifies him or her to supervise and often teach university courses in their area of specialization. The teaching role itself involves both lecturing and the preparation and grading of student laboratory, written, or computer-based work, as well as supervising field work in disciplines like archeology. Science professors also act as academic advisers to their students, coaching them in the direction to take for their academic careers and in how to best master the subject matter that they are studying.


Another little known role for the science professor is often one of governance within the university system itself. This can involve sitting on boards that direct the future of educational programs and, to some degree, determine the allocation of staffing and funding for them. Curriculum changes and degree requirements for graduation are often made in consultation with the senior science professor in a particular department as well, since he or she is most intimately acquainted with the science that is being taught there.

Certain fields of science also lend themselves strongly to a significant level of public interaction for the science professor, and this interaction can often have a level of controversy associated with it. The role of biology professor is often drawn upon to explain the origin and adaptation of life in the natural world from an evolutionary standpoint, for example. This can be at odds with religious views or conflicting scientific evidence from other fields that has not yet been reconciled.

The physics professor or astronomy professor is also called upon to not only explain discoveries that reveal the nature of physical reality and the cosmology of space, but the origins of the universe as well. As a physical science professor delves deeper and deeper into the fundamental nature of matter and time, questions of human morality based on the origin of consciousness inevitably arise. A science professor is, therefore, called upon in public presentations to play the role of a philosopher and to speculate as to what recent discoveries mean in terms of humanity defining its place and role in the grander scheme of things. This leads inevitably to speculation about the future of humanity and whether the human race is alone in the universe as a sentient species. The very nature of the mind and societal norms are questions that the science professor must confront as well both in public and private if his or her field of study is neurobiology or psychology, which are often open-ended fields of research with many more questions than answers.


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