Denise Su is Director of Partnerships and Programs & Curator of Paleobotany and Paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. She co-edited books including Methods in Paleoecology and The Postcranial Anatomy of Australopithecus afarensis.

Could you briefly describe your research interests, or current project?

I am interested in understanding the environments in which our fossil ancestors and relatives evolved. I want to know the ecological factors that might have impacted the trajectory of our evolution. My focus is on Mio-Pliocene hominins; to better understand their paleoenvironment and paleoecology, I conduct research primarily at Laetoli, a Pliocene site in Tanzania, and at other Pliocene sites in Africa, such as Worano-Mille in Ethiopia.  

The next time you speak with a young female researcher who shows passion for STEM, what would you most want her to know?

Pursuing a career in STEM is not easy. There will be times when you will be frustrated and perhaps even want to give up because of challenges outside of your control. When that happens, remind yourself why you love what you do, trust yourself, and be confident in your abilities and who you are. 

Did you have a role model that influenced your decision to work in STEM - either inside or outside your field?

My mom. Growing up, I was immersed in science and nature - both were a part of my everyday life. My mom encouraged me to explore nature and to experiment and test my ideas. As a result, I did not even consider a field outside of STEM for my career, it was a matter of which one.

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Denise Su

Cleveland Museum of Natural History


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