Breakthrough of the Year: A Tale of Two Paleontologists

From Science:

FaysalBibi_UAE_600x400 In the 2 October issue of Science, an international and multidisciplinary team co-led by Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, unveiled the oldest known skeleton of a potential human ancestor as well as information about its living environment. Found in the Middle Awash in the Afar region in Ethiopia, the 4.4-million-year-old skeleton became known as Ardipithecus ramidus, or Ardi for short. The discovery of the fossils was reported in 1994, but it was 15 years before the team presented its results to the world in 11 research papers.

Some of that work, at the time of the discovery and since, has been done by early-career scientists, which raises some interesting career-related questions: How do you become involved in such important research? What's it like? And how does working on such a project affect your career? To investigate these questions, Science Careers profiles two scientists involved in the Ardi project.

Faysal Bibi: Launching your own excavation team

Born in Beirut, Faysal Bibi, 29, traveled extensively as a child. His travels sparked an early interest in “the discovery of cultures, as well as the history and the diverse biological backgrounds” of people, he says. While an anthropology undergraduate at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, Bibi took an interest in the search for the most ancient human origins and the study of human bones, volunteering for archaeological fieldwork in Honduras and learning how to analyze vertebrate fossils in the lab of Anthony Barnosky. When “I got my hands dirty for the first time with fossils, I discovered something that I really enjoyed,” he says.

More here.