Kevin Haggerty is a Professor of Criminology and Sociology at the University of Alberta. We asked him everything from what inspired him to become a scientist to what advice he has for young researchers in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.
What inspired you to become a scientist?
I became a criminologist as a result of a startling lack of imagination. As a young man I was at a crossroads, with few prospects and no vision of what I wanted to do in life. My father was a member of the RCMP, so I decided I would also become a police officer. To be competitive as a potential police recruit I needed a university degree, so that is what I set out to do. I enrolled in community college and then transferred to university. Along the way for the first time in my life I discovered that I was doing well in school, and I loved studying about crime, policing, and criminal justice. My emergence as a scientist grew organically out of my time in university, and the slow realization that I could actually contribute to the bodies of knowledge that I was reading.
What advice would you give young researchers?
My friend and colleague Aaron Doyle and I have just finished writing the book 57 WAYS TO SCREW UP IN GRADUATE SCHOOL. So I have way too much advice to offer early career researchers. At the most basic, I would encourage them to remember that they need to balance the pragmatics of university life with the inspirational aspects of doing research. Working in the university is a job, and as such it contains the occasional bits of drudgery that have to be attended to. At the same time, the university also allows researchers to pursue big questions about important topics. So be sure to follow your instincts about studying what you find significant and exciting, while also taking care of the organizational things that make such research possible.
What do you read?
My leisurely reading is almost exclusively non-fiction, and moves back and forth between military history and popular works on the natural sciences. Some memorable recent books I have read include one on the history of the Great Barrier Reef, and also a wonderful little book on the Octopus – fascinating creatures.
What’s on your playlist?
My music collection consists of a lot of classic rock. I have a 13-year-old son who is now listing to some of that music, so it has been fun to re-discover the joy of power chords through him.
If you could meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
If I could meet any historical figure it would be Nelson Mandela. The life he lived is almost beyond belief.
If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
I have no idea what profession I would pursue if I could not be a professor. I drove a Zamboni for years to help pay my way through university. Maybe there’s an alternative career there?