Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty is an Associate Professor (promoted to Full this summer) and the Curator of Fishes at the Museum of Natural Science and Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University. He is a systematist and an ichthyologist studying the evolution and biogeography of both freshwater and marine fishes, his work has taken him to more than thirty countries around the world (including Japan, Australia, Brazil, Taiwan, Madagascar, Panama, and Kuwait). He has discovered over a dozen new species and published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers. He grew up in New York City, his undergraduate degree is from McGill University in Montreal (the city where he was born) and his PhD is from the University of Michigan. He is a former Program Director at the National Science Foundation, an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a TED Senior Fellow. His latest books include, A Guide to Academia: Getting into and surviving grad school, postdocs and a research job. He teaches Evolution, and Ichthyology at LSU and has given seminars about his work across the country and internationally. During his upcoming sabbatical he will serve as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science at Carleton University in Ottawa. He is a father of nine-year old identical twin girls, and has been married to his wife Annemarie for 15 years, they live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

Three dogs, one who is old enough to vote; a gecko and a betta.

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?


5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?


8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

I’m in my dream job, but it would be fun to be a travel writer.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Animal behavior or perhaps CRISPR-Cas genetic work.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Galapagos, I was suppose to be there about now, but you know what happened.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

I’d love to stop time so I could have as much of it as I liked.

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Read ‘Superior: The Return of Race Science’ by Angela Saini – well written, well researched and so important in these dark times.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

I want to go to the beach with my family, read a little, and write a little.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

I suppose you don’t mean my family, but physical possessions. I love tea, books, and a good notebook.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Bourbon Manhattan – up with two cherries. Yum.

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Les Misérables, it made me think of suffering and privilege.

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

Zoologist, lucky me, I never had to give up that dream.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

I feel like I’ve made it to the top, so now I’m motivated to help those who want to move up too.

19 What got you excited in science?

I love the rapid pace of change in science. I think in the ‘age of corona’ we can really see the speed of innovation and discovery. Even though I work over geological time, we are still discovering so much.

20 What excites you about science now?

For me I think being able to communicate and translate science in new ways is very exciting. TED talks taught me that, but I’m really excited about writing more books for the general public. I love seeing the new crop of amazing science communicators.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

I love listening to hip-hop loud in my car when I’m riding solo.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I tell pretty good ad libbed kids stories and jokes.

23 What is your favorite game?

Texas Hold’em

24 What is the last book you read?

Reading ‘Edison’ by Edmund Morris at the moment.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

‘Everyone is smart, distinguish yourself by being kind’

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Ice climbing

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

It’ll be all right, keep working, help others, enjoy today.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Long quiet walks with a dog.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

I’m loving ‘Last Dance’ on ESPN.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

I don’t think dead fish are weird anymore, but I guess others do.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Cavefishes, specifically those from southern Madagascar.

32 What is your favorite book?

Origin of Species

33 What is your favorite comfort food?


34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Thanksgiving (especially when it falls on my birthday)

35 What is your favorite plant?


36 What is your favorite science fact?

The deepest caves in the world (like the supercaves in Europe) are deeper than the deepest parts of the ocean.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

baby (clean baby)

39 What is your favorite sound?

a baseball being hit by a wood bat

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I’m comfortable being me.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Pooktee (it means ‘butt’ in Bengali) it’s a sweet sounding curseword you can use in any occasion

42 What is your proudest moment?

Watching my graduate student Pam Hart see the cavefishes that inspired her to do research this past January,

43 What kind of tree would you be?

A gingko

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

People are genuinely sweet, friendly and caring in Louisiana; and they love to eat, drink and party.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

My wife and I are foster parents. We had three babies we looked after much of last year and we’ve had a set of identical boys who have been with us the last few months.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Sarah Ruane @Sara_and_Snakes