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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 strength.

“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 really great.”

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 Comparative Zoology.

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 College Catalog.

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