Meet our January Advisor of the Month!

Congratulations and thank you to Sjúrður Hammer!

Sjúrður is a PhD Student at the University of Glasgow. Originally from the Faroe Islands, he did his undergraduate degree in Aberdeen and studies the great skua  (Stercorarius skua), a “bad-ass predatory seabird,” he said.

An early adopter all around, he started using Mendeley in 2008, and became Advisor in 2009.

Sjúrður is an active participant in our Mendeley Advisor Group. He starts interesting discussions, raises needed issues, and contributes to the “community spirit of Mendeley,” a phrase he coined during a recent discussion.

(Photo: Sjúrðor and a bad-ass sea bird,)

How and why he went into research

I have always wanted to get into Biology for as long as I remember. From growing up, I remember I was fascinated with the links that some animals had with other animals and organisms – namely the stomach. So I guess I’ve been a closet ecologist long before I knew that it would involve working with either poo or vomit for the rest of my life!

My project involves fieldwork, based around a colony on a small island (which is appropriately named Skúvoy – “skua island”) in the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands, for those of you that don’t know it, is a tiny archipelago island group in between Scotland, Iceland and Norway, and also where I was born and raised.

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time visiting various natural history museums, to measure eggshells. Many of the documents and eggs that I search through are several centuries old, so I sometimes feel quite like Indiana Jones in these massive archives. They don’t allow me to bring a whip though.

How Mendeley influences his research

I would probably say that my greatest use of Mendeley is in networking, and collaborating with others within open and closed groups. We have several closed groups within our department, and they allow people to share and retrieve articles of interest, also while they’re in the field.

I quite like to try and fill a curating role on some groups, for example on “Biology Classics” and in collecting all zoological references regarding the Faroes. In the case of the latter I would hope that it would both raise the academic profile of our area, but also make research more accessible for people that maybe don’t have the same access as most full-time academics in Britain.

Why Sjúrðor decided to be an Advisor

When Mendeley advertised for advisors I thought I should try and see if I would accepted. There are obvious perks, but I’ve also wanted to be on the right side of history as the technology is changing how scientific research is done and its impact measured.

What book he is currently reading

I pretty much only read non-fiction these days. On top of the pile there is “A New Environmental Ethics: The Next Millennium for Life on Earth” by Holmes Rolston III.

One thing I’ve always missed from the natural sciences pursuit has been a deeper understanding of the value questions such as – “why is a species extinction bad, why is it wrong to capture and engage large whales or why is it worth to conserve some wetland areas.” The best argument we scientists seem to be able to provide is “it will help humans in the long run” or “think of the information and potential cures for cancer we are destroying.” I think from myself at least, that this is just a very shallow and unrealistic approach to the world, and in recognising that natural science probably doesn’t have the vocabulary to deal with “the why questions,” I have developed an increased interest in that topic. It is still pretty much just a hobby interest.

How Sjúrðor helps spread the word

Everybody in the office laughed about my declaration that I was advisor of the month, because they’ve come to know me as a total Mendeley evangelist! I prefer generally to tell people about Mendeley individually, and then help them get started on it.

A fun fact you may be surprised to know about Sjúrðor

In 2002, I set the Faroese record for most pizza deliveries in a day. I think it was 74, and as far as I know, I’m still holding the record. I think this (after becoming Advisor of the Month) might be the greatest achievement of my life.

The best part about being a researcher

You are constantly learning new things, and it’s a good friendly environment where everyone is generously centred around the appreciation of knowledge in its broadest sense.

And the worst

There are periodic feelings of isolation, as you are most likely the only person in the world that is working on the question you are working on. For most people, it is also quite hard work to secure funding for the research, and that this has to be done continuously.

The one thing Sjúrðor wants people to know about Mendeley

You get at least as much out of it as you put into it, and there is a lot of time saved if you use it while you’re literature searching. The friendly community of researchers is also an obvious bonus!

(answers have been edited for length and clarity)

 

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