Le Vital Salon Podcast

Jingmai O’Connor on flying dinosaur birds, responding to feedback + dispelling misconceptions in academia and beyond

Meet Jingmai O’Connor. 

She’s a professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoAnthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, China. After completing her PhD,  she moved to Beijing, where she has been working for the past 10 years. She became IVPP’s youngest full professor in 2015. Her research explores the evolution of flight in the Dinosauria, the dinosaur bird transition, and the biology of stem-avians (aka flying dinosaur birds). Jingmai is also an advocate for data sharing and equality in science. While we totally geek out on flying dinosaurs in this episode and other science-y topics, we also talk about dispelling misconceptions about living a life of science. Our conversation is a great example of how someone – like Jingmai – brings her whole self to work. We dig (pun somewhat intended) into fossil-finding and how moving to China was so important to her career as a paleontologist. We also explore highly transferable lessons from surviving academia, releasing the emotions from criticism/feedback, and how to handle confrontation and consequences. I really hope you dig this conversation with this “punk-rock” paleontologist.