Alumni Profile: Tim Laman '83
In his work as a field biologist and freelance photographer for
National Geographic, Dr. Tim Laman ’83 frequently draws on
skills honed at Hope.
Even those he never expected to use. For “Fiji’s Rainbow Reefs,” for
example, he applied his experience with scuba diving -- an interest that began
while he was conducting research with a faculty mentor.
Dr. Laman chose to attend Hope because of the college’s size and academic
“The idea of a huge university didn’t really appeal to me. I wanted
to go someplace that was more personal,” he said. “And the other
thing was that I had a strong interest in biology, and the program here sounded
In his first year, he became involved in research and earned a co-author credit
on a published paper. “It was a small note, but I got that sense of discovery
even as a freshman that I had helped to learn something that wasn’t known
before,” he said.
“If I had to single out the one thing that was the most important, I think
it comes down to my undergraduate research experiences,” Dr. Laman said. “That
was the single most influential thing that’s affected my career.”
From Hope he went on for a master’s and doctorate at Harvard, where he
is now a research associate in the Ornithology Department of the Museum of
Having an avid interest in photography since childhood, it was while completing
his graduate work that he approached National Geographic with a story on research
he was conducting in the tropical rain forest canopy of Borneo. His first article
appeared in 1997, followed by a dozen more on topics ranging from orangutans
to gliding vertebrates to Japanese wildlife.
Given the way that he has been able to blend multiple interests in his professional
life, he encourages students to stay open to the possibilities of life.
“I certainly had no idea when I left Hope what I was going to be doing
now,” Dr. Laman said. “But if you keep exploring your interests and
pursue what you have a passion for, you will have a fulfilling and satisfying
life, and maybe be able to make a contribution.”
This profile was written by Melissa Sexton, a 2005 Hope
College graduate from Kalamazoo, Mich., for the 2005-06 Hope
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