Biology, philosophy & religious studies student, bone collector, rat parent
Surrounded by dead carcasses and collections of bones, Hailey Kaufman explores the worlds of philosophy, religious studies and biology simultaneously. Kaufman puts her expertise in practice at the Saint Louis Zoo using her knowledge of both theoretical and scientific elements.
AMPERSAND: What made you dive into all the fields you are in today? How do they fit together?
HAILEY KAUFMAN: I came into Webster undecided and eventually committed to philosophy because nothing else felt right. I went abroad sophomore year, and spent a lot of time going on outdoorsy adventures with my friends. I got really interested in science writing, and thought it was dumb that I wasn’t studying science. I major in philosophy and minor in religious studies — biology was the most recent thing I added. I feel like I am able to grasp more scientific theory than other people, in my philosophy classes at least.
AMP: Who influenced you the most?
HK: Emily Graslie. She started a YouTube channel a few years ago called The Brain Scoop. She was working with biofact, which is anything remaining from something that was alive, in a museum at a university in Montana. There were dissection videos and tours of the collections. That was something that I had never known before. I decided to look into that, and ended up getting a similar job at the zoo, something I think I want to keep doing.
AMP: What do you do at the Saint Louis Zoo?
HK: I am an extern for the biofact collection, working under its curator. What I have been doing is cataloguing, tagging, helping organize the collection and sometimes I help repair things. I have also done preparations, so skulls that were kind of clean, I helped clean and stock them. Now that the school year has started, I’m doing my thesis there, so I’m mostly doing research.
AMP: What motivates you?
HK: My job at the zoo is fun. I get to tell so many stories about it, and they’re always a bit morbid — stuff that people aren’t quite comfortable with. I like pushing people over the edge by thinking about bodies and death. People like to avoid thinking about those things.
Story by Megan van Vegten
Photo by Julia Peschel