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Michael Angilletta Career path

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  • Kingsnake: snake from the genus Lapropeltis which also includes the milk snake. The banding color is similar to poisonous coral snakes. To be safe you should not handle any snakes unless you are sure they are harmless.
  • Matlock: an American television show about a lawyer who takes on difficult cases for clients who everyone believes to be guilty.

Career Path for Mike Angilletta

Fast Facts:

  • Number of years in school: 23
  • Favorite class / subject: Math
  • Hardest class / subject: Chemistry
  • First Job: Newspaper delivery boy
  • Dream job as a kid: Run a toy store
  • One word you would use to describe your current job: Amazing

Biologists don’t all start out loving biology, or even science. In fact, Mike Angilletta was interested in other subjects like politics, until a little luck changed his path.

When growing up, Angilletta wanted to be a lawyer. “Like on the TV show Matlock! Also, I really didn’t like biology and chemistry.” But he admits that this didn’t have much to do with the subjects. He felt this way because he wasn’t lucky enough to have had good science teachers. Outside of school, though, he was always interested in animals like snakes and enjoyed walking through the woods, turning over logs, and seeing what would come crawling out.

Angilletta holding a coral snake.His mom didn’t share his enthusiasm, however, so he didn’t get to keep snakes as pets until college. Toward the end of his first year at the College of New Jersey, he wound up in the biology department looking for mice to feed to his snakes.

He walked into Professor Otto Heck’s office and found himself surrounded by dozens of snakes. Otto was an ecologist who studied snakes for a living… a job that Angilletta didn’t know existed. He was instantly hooked.

He switched his major and started to help out with snake research. By the end of college, he was so excited about this sort of work that he planned to spend his senior year of college in Africa. He was going to study green mambas, which are some of the fastest snakes in the world. Unfortunately, right before he was supposed to leave, the trip was cancelled. He went anyway, using his own money to pay for the research project.

green mambas“It was this sort of experience that was critical for me to succeed as a biologist,” Angilletta said. From then on, he continued working with animals, focusing mostly on reptiles. As it turned out, a series of lucky chances, including meeting a mentor when looking for snake food and salvaging a cancelled trip to Africa, helped him stumble upon what he thinks is the best career in the world. Every day, Angilletta is thankful for a job that allows the flexibility to travel, work with students, and spend as much time as he wants studying lizards and snakes.

Just because you don’t like a certain subject in school doesn’t mean you have to give up on that subject altogether. Instead, you can keep your options open. “Find a career that excites you, but don’t worry if you don’t know what that is yet. Your dream job is probably out there, and as long as you are patient and keep trying new things, you’ll soon be able to spend your days doing something you love…and you might get paid for it!”

Mike Angilletta

Mike Angilletta began his career in biology through an interest in snakes. Here he holds a harmless kingsnake that looks very similar to a coral snake which is venomous.

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Mike Angilletta

Mike Angilletta began his career in biology through an interest in snakes. Here he holds a harmless kingsnake that looks very similar to a coral snake which is venomous.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.