Popular Science

Researcher­s who made work of their hobbies

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The average person spends some 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, which adds up to 10 years on the clock. But some folks fig-ured out how to bring their extrocurri­culars into the office. Here's how four lucky people folded fun into their profession­al callings.

1. SPEEDY RESEARCH JES WOODS, NIKE RUNNING COACH

While working as an engineer, I started running ultramarat­hons for fun. I quickly realized that I was never going to be the fastest runner. So instead I took a scientific approach to training, which ultimately led to my career as a coach.

For instance, I always experiment with new workouts on myself to make sure they’re not just good on paper.

3. FLIGHT SCHOOL J. DREW LANHAM, PROFESSOR OF WILDLIFE ECOLOGY AT CLEMSON UNIVERSITY

As a kid I wanted to fly, which launched my fascinatio­n with birds and tracking their migration patterns. As a cultural conservati­on ornitholog­ist, I follow how human events have altered the size of avian population­s. Seeing things from a bird’s-eye view reminds me that these animals help link the world together.

2. MATH STITCHES SABETTA MATSUMOTO, PROFESSOR OF THEORETICA­L PHYSICS AND APPLIED MATHEMATIC­S AT GEORGIA TECH

My mom was a textile artist, so I grew up crafting.

Now I study why some fabrics get stronger or more elastic when you knot their fibers together in new ways. Early in my career, I started knitting the math concepts involved in my work, like curvy hyperbolic planes, to make them tangible.

4. GAME THEORY ELIZABETH BARTELS, ASSOCIATE POLICY RESEARCHER AT RAND CORPORATIO­N

My interest in simulation design began in college. My Model UN team ran a catand-mouse scenario pitting Al Capone’s Mafia against the Chicago city police. Now I create games for government teams—where they navigate simulation­s of flu pandemics, for example—so they can rehearse responses in advance.

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