Dr. Roy Cullimore is a microbiologist with Droycon Bioconcepts Incorporated, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Read the full text of Roy's interview below to learn more about his job.
What is your title?
I have a Ph.D and also am a registered microbiologist. Some call me Doctor Roy, more formally I am president of Droycon Bioconcepts Inc.
Where do you work?
I work at Droycon Bioconcepts Inc., in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Do you travel often?
No I'm not a great traveler. The Titanic is the one place I will travel to. My universe is right in my own background and there is so much within five miles of where I sit right now.
One of my graduate students who worked for me does a lot of the field research for me. She is going to China, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, back to Canada and then to the Mediterranean. If I wanted to travel I could but I choose not too.
What are the educational requirements for your job?
I have a Ph.D. in microbiology. But one also needs to be able to understand and grasp concepts and be innovative and creative.
What is the salary range for someone with your type of job?
I don't make much money since I reinvest the profits that I make in my company. Some scientists make millions of dollars and there are others who make amazing discoveries but no money and they are content. It's harder to make discoveries than it is to make money. When you actually go and do what you want to do then there is a different type of currency—investing in future knowledge and understanding.
How many hours do you work per week?
A typical day is 10 or so hours per day and about 60 hours per week. But I'm thinking 24 hours a day so my mind is always working even when I sleep! The nature of an active mind is what makes you successful.
Tell us about your research and the types of things you do.
I am a scientist (applied microbial ecology), consultant (biofouling issues), inventor (seven patents with two commercially developed products), retired professor (University of Regina) and successful business owner (Droycon Bioconcepts, Inc.). My interests in Titanic began shortly after the wreck was discovered in 1985 when I recognized the now famous rusticles as being the same microbial communities that have plagued wells and dams for many years. As a forward thinker and philosopher I try to determine the biological challenges of the sunken ships created primarily through the activities of rusticles and other microbial events like corrosion.
What are the personal rewards of your work?
Satisfaction on a job well done and the new challenges that are still to come!
How does your work benefit the public?
We need to be physicians for this planet. We have to come to grips that we are the dysfunctional part of the harmony on this planet. There is a comfort level with science and it is on a pedestal. I am part of a movement to produce a different level of comfort in which we understand the vast diversity on this planet and return this planet to harmony.
What else could someone with your background do?
It is very much an individual choice. What are your goals? What are your capabilities? What is the speed with which you want to succeed? Those questions each person has to ask themselves in the fullness of time.
What role did you have in the May 27 - June 12 2004 mission to the RMS Titanic?
During this expedition, I continued to investigate biological corrosion impacting the structural integrity of Titanic, primarily through the activities of rusticles and other microbial events. It is now possible to begin to mathematically project the rate at which the ship is collapsing. My activities included placing scientific experiments near the wreck, and analyzing video images from the ROV's for changes in rusticle growth, the results of which can help scientists to better understand shipwreck degradation. My focus is to build a baseline of scientific information from which we can measure the processes and deterioration of Titanic, and apply that knowledge to many other submerged cultural resources. This was my fourth expedition to Titanic.
What sparked your initial interest in ocean sciences?
When I was fourteen I used to love to walk around Oxford and became fascinated in meadows and streams. The green slime I found floating in a stream was what really initiated my first fascination and interest in biology. I bought a portable microscope and I discovered a whole universe. I spent hours watching how cells communicated with each other. From there I decided I wanted to be a microbiologist.
My first study was in agriculture and I worked with soil fertility testing. I received my first grant to test iron bacteria in the water in wells in the prairies. When Bob Ballard discovered the Titanic I realized that there was a whole different universe out there and I moved my research from shallow water to deep water. At 55 years old I began a strong interest in what I now do. I realized that the growths on the Titanic were about the same as those growths we had observed in failing water wells. Over the next 10 years I discovered a test method that could be used in rusticles and determine how fast the deterioration of the Titanic was. Rusticles contain tiny microbes that feed on iron and create icicle-shaped formations. Very little is known about rusticles.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
I was really self-motivated and a loner. I didn't follow the pack and had my own theories about many things. When I was 18 my favorite book was Biological Principals by Woodger. It may have been boring for some but I found the dynamics of science fascinating. I also loved reading the Journal of Agricultural Science and the debates between the old and the new methods of farming.
Looking back, was there anything you would have done differently in your education or career journey?
No—if you dwell on that you are a failure. You did choose those options even though they turned out to be bad choices. You learn along the way that there is only one pathway and that is the one you have already traveled on and brought you to where you are today—think of the future and learn from the past.
What obstacles did you encounter along the way?
Dogmatism! Never say to me it can't be done. Dogmatism has caused more problems than greed. There also has to be a balance and not demanding too much but giving too little—balance.
What are your hobbies?
Making art with bacteria! We have done that on the Titanic and it's a blend of art and science. I also write children's stories. I wrote one on the Titanic. George Tulloch who was the president of the Titanic wanted people to understand what the ship meant and wanted a children's story of the Titanic that had a happy ending. Colinore and Rebecca Rust's Adventures on the Titanic by Roy Cullimore (amazon.com)
Do you have an inspirational message or quote?
Dream and scheme to make the theme of your thoughts a reality and never believe that "it can't be done" for there are no real borders other than the borders that you create. Innovate, speculate, postulate and above all listen and learn and remember the minds of old are full of experiences that you need to understand in order to grow with less pain and with more fulfillment.
Interests in Elementary School:
Hiking in the streams and meadows and observing the bacteria that were growing around the water.
Beginning of Interest in Marine Sciences:
About 14 years old.
First Marine Science Class:
I never took a marine science class. You don't have to take a class to become an expert but you do need to understand the concepts.
B.S. in Agriculture and a Ph.D. in Microbiology.
First Career-related Job:
I spent a year on a farm since I lived in the city and wanted to take a degree in agricultural science. After I got my Ph.D I taught microbiology at the University of Regina. I was also director of the Water Research Institute.
Employment Journey/Career Transitions:
I was a career professor but always wanted to be applied. I started my own company in 1997 to help make those applications. Now I am in the private sector with my own biotechnology company. Most of my peers have retired to gentler pastures.
Became a life long breather! We all are but we often forget how important breathing is to our being! Progressing along my life long path of learning has, I believe, also been an accomplishment.
Related Ocean Explorer Content
Print and Web Resources
Online and offline books, magazines and articles related to this career. Colinore and Rebecca Rust's Adventures on the Titanic by Roy Cullimore (amazon.com): Droycon Bioconcepts Inc.