The Hippo


May 29, 2020








 What are you really into right now?

I enjoy powerlifting a lot. … It gives me a little credibility with my students when I teach my exercise physiology course. … [And] I really enjoy riding my motorcycle. 

Bill Ryerson
Snake Researcher


Explain what your current job is.

I currently teach anatomy and physiology at Saint Anselm College. I also teach exercise physiology. And then my research is on biomechanics and behavior in amphibians and reptiles. … I’m interested in how animals move and what I’m doing in my lab now is trying to see how captivity affects anatomy and behavior. There’s a lot of pet snakes out there and we really don’t have a good understanding of what being a pet snake does to their anatomy and to how they behave. A lot of what my students are doing is trying to tease those things apart, like how fast do they strike, how fast do they slither, what are some of the changes to the muscles and bones? … Depending on what species of snake you are looking at, some of them move just like wild snakes; you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. And then others really slow down and they’ll miss their food more often, they don’t open their mouths as wide and they don’t really resemble wild snakes at all.
How long have you worked there?
I have been in the field a little more than 10 years and I’ve been at Saint Anselm for [four years].
How did you get interested in this field?
When I was in college, I wanted to be an oceanographer and look at ocean currents, and what that meant for shipping and human activities. And then I went to a lecture by a Duke professor … and he talked about how whales and and other animals rely on aspects of physics to move around and how the physics really drives a lot their anatomy and their behavior. That just kind of blew my mind. … Tying the physics and biology together really piqued my interest.
What kind of education or training did you need for this?
I needed to get my Ph.D. I went and got a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maine, master’s degree at the University of South Florida and then my Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. From there, I was eligible for post-doctoral research jobs and university jobs as well.
How did you find your current job?
I was looking for places that had a lot more teaching. … At some of the bigger state universities, the professors are there to do their research. … In a school like Saint A’s, it’s the opposite. My priority is teaching and then my research is a way to get skills to my students.
What’s the best piece of work-related advice anyone’s ever given you?
Time is the biggest currency in this field. … How you balance your teaching and your research as well as making sure you’re not just 100 percent work all the time — thinking about that early on was huge for me.
What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?
The value of … the liberal arts education. … All my education was very kind of professionally focused, so I missed out on a lot of the history classes and philosophy classes that I kind of regret [missing] now. 
What is your typical at-work uniform?
During the academic year, when I have to teach, it’s definitely more of a business casual style. When I’m working in the field, it’s anything that I can ruin. 
What was the first job you ever had?
I worked for a general contractor in Hawthorne, New Jersey.
— Ryan Lessard 

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