I gained a love of and appreciation for science at a very young age. I spent my childhood dreaming of being a scientist and my life’s circumstances were such that I had an opportunity to follow my dream. In 1999, I received my doctorate in cell biology, but surprisingly I then had doubts regarding whether I wanted to engage in a career of scientific research. Why, you might ask? Because during my graduate school years (particularly when I became fortunate enough to serve as a teaching assistant for several Biology courses at Texas Tech University) I discovered another love — teaching!
So what did I do? Immediately after graduating with a Ph.D., I enrolled in an alternative teaching certification program that allowed me to “dip my toes” into the educational world as a high school chemistry and biology teacher. This experience helped answer my question about the fork in the road I found myself in: do I embark in a career of scientific research or one of scientific teaching? By that point, teaching had hooked me so the decision was a relatively easy one.
About the same time, I realized that the combination of the relatively low pay of teachers (boo!) with the debt that I had accumulated after thirteen (!) years of college and graduate school, I needed to find a way to earn extra money in order to make ends meet. It was at that time that I discovered eBay and I started looking for ways to make money from online auctions. I done ok for 2 years selling just about anything and everything but I had my greatest success (which is a relative term of course) selling liquidated surplus inventory such as plus-sized women’s clothing and a variety of other merchandise that was once for sale on the QVC home shopping network!
Fast forward a few years, when I was casually browsing eBay and I came across an eBook that taught people how to sell used books on Amazon. At the time, ebay was much bigger than Amazon (I know, hard to imagine that today!) and ebay sales were going pretty well for me, so I had never considered Amazon. What struck me, though, after reading that ebook, were 2 things: 1) having been in school for so long, books were among my very favorite things (they still are) and 2) selling on Amazon sounded like it would be much easier than ebay, mostly because you didn’t have to create your own listings for the vast majority of items that one might sell.
I went to my first Friends of the Library book sale, as the eBook instructed me to do, listed my finds on Amazon, and eventually made my first sale. Once that happened, I was completely hooked and decided that books would be, starting right then and there, my main type of inventory to sell online going forward. Just a few years after this, I discovered the incredible leverage of the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) platform and, once again, my business permanently changed for the better once again. If you are unfamiliar with FBA, fear not! I will discuss its amazing advantages (and, for that matter, some of its disadvantages) on this blog going forward.
Things really started to happen when I decided to sell each eBook individually for a few dollars and deliver them electronically, this was a huge success and I quickly found I was earning $1000 per week from eBook sales alone. This was without even having any form of backend operation in place and I hadn’t even written my first eBook and I had no idea what building a mailing list was all about.
While all of this was happening, I made another important shift in my “day job.” I made the jump from high school teacher to community college professor. After a brief stint as an adjunct professor at Tomball College, I was hired as a full time Biology and Biotechnology professor at Montgomery College just north of Houston, Texas. Ever since that time, my career as a science educator has gone well.
… very very well.
I tell my students and, for that matter, anyone who might ask me, that if you love what you do for a living enough, you will never work a day in your life. This has indeed been the culmination of my journey thus far as an educator. When I first “hit the scene” as a full-time professor, my overriding goal was to teach every Biology and Biotechnology class that Montgomery College had to offer. After several years of teaching overloads, I almost, but not quite, reached that goal. I taught Freshman Biology, both for Majors and for Nonmajors, Microbiology (also both for Majors and Nonmajors), Anatomy & Physiology I & II, Nutrition, Introduction to Biotechnology, Molecular Biology and many others.
Even though, I never quite reached my goal of teaching everything that I was eligible to teach, my career took yet another turn that more than made up for that “shortcoming.” This turn may very well constitute the most amazing blessing that I have experienced (and continue to experience) in my professional life. Remember when I mentioned that I had come to a crossroads of sorts when I had to choose between two different passions: research or teaching? Most people who face such a choice choose a path and never revisit the alternative, and often wonder what “might have been.” What happened for me, though, was a promotion to the position of Director of the Lone Star College Biotechnology Institute (LSCBI) and, with it, an opportunity to oversee authentic undergraduate research projects on campus! Yes, I had been once blessed with an opportunity to teach and now I was being twice blessed with an opportunity to engage in scientific research, my other professional passion.
The student research initiatives within the framework of the LSCBI and via collaborations between LSCBI and various community partners centered on a number of cutting-edge sustainable technologies. Most of these collaborations have involved projects associated (either directly or indirectly) with algae biotechnology, including several algae-derived biofuels and nutraceutical biomanufacturing projects, algae and bacteria-derived electricity production in microbial fuel cells (MFCs), algae-mediated water bioremediation, algal support of aquaponics agricultural projects and NASA-associated projects looking at the potential role of blue-green algae in a life support role for future manned Mars missions. .research projects, some of which have been integrated into the biotechnology curriculum at Lone Star College.
In addition to algae research, LSCBI student projects have included work with supercomputers on bioinformatics and beta tests of high-end laboratory techniques like fluorescence microscopy, High Performance Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS), gas chromagography, flow cytometry and supercritical CO2 extraction. The establishment of such projects have led to the research opportunities for Lone Star College biotechnology students which includes the unique opportunity to help develop one of the first commercial scale biorefineries in Texas, right here on the Lone Star-Montgomery campus. Don’t worry if you don’t know what some or all of those technologies are: I will be discussing them ad nauseum on this blog during the coming months!
All the while that I progressed in my career as an educator, I continued to operate my Amazon and ebay-centric ecommerce business, part-time, from home. Running this business for so many years, plus the opportunity to work directly with entrepreneurs in the local Biotechnology industry as part of my job running a Biotechnology workforce program, led me to greatly admire entrepreneurs and develop a third passion: for entrepreneurship. This blog stems from a passion for entrepreneurship (yes, it will be an entrepreneurial venture as well as an outlet for teaching and sharing my love of scientific research with the world). I hope that you will join me on this journey and if your passions align with any of mine (science, education and/or entrepreneurship), then I hope to share my experiences and invite you to join me on this journey. I hope to share many entrepreneurial, scientific and educational discoveries with you. This blog will focus on my entrepreneurial journey, even though I’m sure that I won’t be able to resist dropping a little science on you from time to time. If you would like to check out my science blogging adventures, please feel free to check out lonestarbiotech.org. In any case, I hope that will share your passions, your challenges and your successes with me on these blogs as we progress through this thing called life.
To complete our “introduction,” here is a little bit about my personal life. I am married to Christine, whom I love very much both she and I are both on our second marriages. We have learned and grown from our past. I have three wonderful daughters and she has three awesome sons, both from our previous marriages. I am on very good terms with Vanessa, my ex wife, and I am very happy for her, as she, like I, has found someone that she loves and has settled in with is flourishing with in this current phase of her life. Nothing is more important than the people one shares their life with. Everything I do, I do for them (well, and for the world that they live in). They are my why, which drives me to work hard and seek success. Only you can know your why, which can be a very personal thing. Whatever that why is, I hope to help you find success with and for it. I’m up for the challenge. Are you? Let’s roll up our sleeves and get busy, shall we?