Professor Michael J. Benton
BSc (Hons) Zoology, 1978
From Aberdeen to Dinosaurs
Your Time at Aberdeen
Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
It was my local university, and most people in my class who wanted to go to university chose Aberdeen. But more than that: the Geology and Zoology Departments were world-class and offered fantastic opportunities for me to grow up and find out what scientific research was all about.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I had been mad about dinosaurs since the age of seven, and so hovered between studying geology and biology.
What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I very much enjoyed Rag Week, and remember directing the construction of a life-sized Brontosaurus on the back of one of the lorries. I was determined it would breathe smoke and I can't quite remember how we made this happen, but it did, and needless to say we were pursued by the fire wardens who thought the float was going on fire.
If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Do what you enjoy and immerse yourself in your studies as well as all the other great things going on. Don't idle about - plenty of time for that when you're old! Maybe also, don’t try to be too sophisticated: people who love their jobs later in life keep a childlike curiosity and they question everything.
Your Time After Aberdeen
What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
PhD; then Junior Research Fellow, University of Oxford
What did your first role involve?
It was a research post, so I was free to follow my nose in exploring questions around the origin of the dinosaurs.
Who was your first employer?
English Nature - this came between my PhD and the Oxford JRF. The job was to review all British fossil reptile sites and select the top 50 to be designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; a practical contribution to conservation.
What is your current job title?
Professor of Palaeontology.
Who is your current employer?
University of Bristol.
What is your current role?
Reseach and teaching.
Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
After working for English Nature for a year, I did a Junior Research Fellowship at Oxford, and then got my first real job, as a Lecturer at Queen's University, Belfast.
Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now?
It was enormously helpful in opening up the breadth of research in the natural sciences, and the fact that mere students could speak to world-famous professors.
One Top Tip
Immerse yourself in everything while you are a student; you'll never have so many opportunities in front of you again.