As I kid I always dreamed of becoming one, like most kids probably. Most careers have their downsides once we get past the childhood fantasies. What though hadn't you expected before entering into an academic career, that turned out to be a good surprise?
When a was about 5 years old, i saw for the first time dinosaur models with a friend from kindergarten. This got me interested in Paleontology and kept me going until i was at the end of secondary school. Afterwards i started studying geology with the aim of becoming a paleontologist. During my studies i kinda switched camp from vertebrates (dinosaurs) to invertebrates (ammonoids, an extinct group of cephalopods with an external buoyant shell). I got particularly interested in cephalopods after a documentary about the intelligence of octopods (e.g., one was crawling over the floor at night to eat fish from aquarium across the lab). My interest in ammonoids, took me to Switzerland (Zürich) to do a PhD on the origin of ammonoids after doing a Master on Middle Jurassic ammonoids from France. In Switzerland i first met my future wife, which was the first unexpected and positive thing. While make sections through ammonoid specimens to study intraspecific variation in their morphology, i discovered strange structures which i could positively link with parasites which infested these. We could track the coevolutionary history of ammonoid hosts and their parasites for several million years. This got me interested in the paleobiology and evolutionary history of parasites which i am currently working on and took me to the United Kingdom (Bristol) and Germany (Erlangen).- Kenneth De Baets •