Josh Abbatiello, Ph.D. Candidate

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hello, my name is Josh Abbatiello. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in geology and am currently a PhD. Candidate (geology as well) at the University of South Florida. I’m a huge fan of movies, – my favorite genre is horror (I don’t think I can pick a favorite, so be prepared for a long conversation if asked). I also love watching T.V. and anime. If I had to pick, Breaking Bad may be my favorite T.V. show and I can’t possibly pick a favorite anime. I’m an avid Sci-Fi and fantasy reader. Isaac Asimov is my all-time favorite author, and I am on a constant mission to collect all of his physical books. I’ve been a cat person my whole life and currently have two cats: a tortoiseshell named Reina and a black cat named Nefertiti. Since middle school, I’ve played trombone. I performed in the marching band throughout high school and college. I don’t play as much as I would like to. Being a band nerd has heavily influenced my music tastes. I love to listen to literally any kind of music. Due to having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), when listening to music, I tend to analyze different facets of the music (e.g., why people like it, time signature, and meaning of the lyrics). I have the tendency to do this with all forms of media. Thank you for reading and getting to know a little about me.

White man with shoulder length brown hair wearing a purple shirt smiling at camera in front of nature preserve on a sunny day.

What kind of scientist are you and what do you do? In the broadest sense, I’m a biogeochemist. I use techniques of biology, geology, and chemistry to understand the element phosphorus. I study how phosphorus pertains to the origin of the earliest molecules billions of years ago and its immense importance to us today. I also relate that information to determining potential for life on other planets.

What is your favorite part about being a scientist, and how did you get interested in science? My favorite thing about being a scientist is getting to think about questions that we don’t know and working towards solving them as a scientific community. My path to getting interested in science came from a young age. My stepdad would rent the Carl Sagan (a famous astrobiologist who pioneered the field of exobiology) version of Cosmos on VHS from the library, and I became enamored with space. His ability to teach and connect to a wide audience in a way that inspired many including myself. I believe it’s important to be able to communicate with and inspire the next generations.

How does your work contribute to the betterment of society in general? I believe that working towards unanswered questions such as the origin of life betters society. This research provides a framework for possible environments of life on other planets, while providing a better understanding of how humans came to exist on Earth. I’m a part of the Scientist in every Florida school (SEFS) and Skype- a- Scientist programs where they give scientists the chance to reach students and hopefully inspire them to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (S.T.E.A.M). One of my goals is to encourage students with learning disabilities (like myself) that they can do anything neurotypical people can. Growing up, my mom didn’t really believe in diagnosing issues. As such, looking back after my adult diagnosis, I had all the hallmark signs of ADHD and unfortunately constantly heard “If you tried harder or applied yourself” comments from teachers and even siblings. These comments would send me into a spiral of depression and anxiety. Even so, with mental health treatment and gaining a support system in my adult life, I was able to work through my depression and anxiety. I’m soon going to be graduating with my PhD.

What advice do you have for up and coming scientists? As cliché as it sounds, you can do it. Persevere and don’t give up. The world of science is huge, and you can mix and match disciplines to match your interests, like how I have mixed biology, geology, and chemistry. Stay inquisitive and never stop learning. It’s never too late or early to pursue what you’re passionate about.