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Eric Libby

How does it feel to be part of Researchers' Friday Stand up?

"Exciting and a little frightening. It reminds me of participating in elementary school plays: it is fun to put on a costume and pretend but there is this fear you will forget your lines or rip your pants in front of the school. Unfortunately, I have ripped my pants and forgotten a line so... history has not been on my side."

"My wife signed me up. She also signed me up for an 18 km race. I think she is out to get me."

How can you make research fun?

"Research is fun. You get to learn about something that interests you and are encouraged to tell people about it."

What are you researching?

"My research focuses on understanding how life evolves to be complex."

What is the most fun and interesting thing about research and what is the challenge?

"The most fun thing about research is the elation of discovery. It would be like if you are digging a hole and discovered a box of pirate treasure. The challenge of research is that these discoveries only come after a lot of failure, toil, and self doubt. So in the pirate treasure example, the discovery would only come after digging thousands of holes in thousands of places with different, often ill-suited tools."

Why do you think popular(izing) science is important?

"It is important that every one is aware of science because so many decisions and policies are based on it. Understanding the evidence and the reasoning that leads to conclusions also helps us understand their underlying assumptions and applications."

"A simple example is food safety. There are some foods we cook to certain temperatures or for particular times because scientific research has shown us what is needed to disable toxic compounds or dangerous pathogens that may be present. Foods differ in what pathogens or toxic compounds may be present which is why they differ in their cooking times. The recommended cooking times and temperatures may change in the future depending on the composition of the food. Of course this example comes to mind because I am hungry."

What do you hope to "get out" of the stand up and learn?

"I guess I hope to connect with someone, either by giving them a different picture of what a scientist is "like" or an idea of some of the fun things that people research here in Umeå."

Short facts about Eric

Living in: Umeå, comes from Houston, Texas
Family: Wife, two children, dog, many disgruntled house plants
Interests: Science, movies, cooking, playing sports, card games, gardening
Me in three words: Work in progress
Favorite comedy: The movie "O Brother Where Art Thou" comes to mind, or perhaps the TV show "Community"
Favorite comedian and role model: I love the comedy of Seth Meyers and Tina Fey.
My favorite joke: It is like my favorite food. It depends on the day and context.
Makes me laugh: Lots of things. I am pretty jovial.
Does in five years: Similar but better, I hope.
Spends a free Sunday: I have kids. There is no such thing as a free Sunday.
Three top places in Umeå: Ica Maxi. Nature reserves. Duå
Umeå in three words: Getting better daily
Talent I have (no one knew): Good at air hockey.
I stood on stage for the first time: Ummm an elementary school play about the creation of the American holiday Thanksgiving. I played a Native American and Abraham Lincoln.
Dreamed of becoming when I was little: A dinosaur.