Dr. Ross Geller is an esteemed paleontologist on that ’90s sitcom you probably never watched ever: Friends.
Besides pining for his one true love Rachel Green, hanging out in the same coffee shop all day, or, you know, spying on “ugly” naked guys across the street (like any normal human being does), he has time to work at a museum AND teach classes at NYU.
In fact, in a post in Reddit’s Ask Science community, Reddit user Faxecastle, asked Yale paleontologist and Pastime Podcast host Adam Pritchard, Ph.D, the question that frankly needed to be answered by science.
It’s about time we investigate “Dr.” Geller’s dubious paleontological background. So, we called up Pritchard and paleontologist (and certified Friends fan) Deborah Rook, Ph.D, to help us grade Rachel’s beau.
“There was some evidence he was a terrible paleontologist and some evidence he’s actually a brilliant paleontologist,” Pritchard says.
In fact, Ross Geller could be a genius since he is probably one of the youngest tenured professors ever.
Ross Geller is barely 30-years-old and a tenured professor at NYU.
“This is a life-time goal for paleontologists,” Pritchard explains.
“He must be writing grants constantly offscreen,” Pritchard says. “He probably doesn’t sleep.”
But here’s the weird thing: NYU’s paleontology faculty doesn’t even research dinosaurs.
“I was curious so I looked this up. NYU has a couple of paleontologists on staff, but they are part of the Anthropology Department—they look into questions of primate evolution,” shares Pritchard.
Ross, as we all know, is a dinosaur expert. Or is he? In one scene, he installs a Neanderthal exhibit, which falls under an anthropology discipline.
“[The Neanderthal exhibit] indicates that Ross is active in science outreach, I’ll give him that,” Pritchard says.
An NYU student was equally as confused about his speciality, describing it on Rate My Professors, a website used by college students to grade faculty:
Rook, however, has a theory to explain it all: “I think Ross may have just told his friends he was working at NYU, since there’s obviously no place for him there. That’s why he had so much time to hang out in the coffee shop! It all makes sense now.”
And then there was his paltry, bizarre imitation of a threatened Velociraptor:
“I don’t know where Ross is getting his data from,” Pritchard states.
Pritchard says he’s never come across any scientists who actually thought Velociraptors behaved in this way.
On the other hand, Rook points out that Velociraptors were closely related to birds. In fact, they had feathers and were about the size of a chicken.
Pritchard says that the noise Ross makes sounds a lot like the Birds of Paradise, so maybe Ross is onto something…
And then there was the time he casually brought home a briefcase full of million-year-old fossils. Why? To impress Phoebe.
Ross has access to a large collections of fossils at NYU, but it’s a rigorous process for researchers to take them out on a loan. Ross would have to get written approval by a collections manager. And usually, fossils are taken to another university or a museum, not somebody’s private residence.
“Ross bringing them home to show off to Phoebe? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He’s breaching some type of agreement that he signed to take them out … I would start to question his judgement about the best way to educate people about paleontology,” Pritchard says.
And remember the time he offers a genuine pterodactyl egg … replica to Rachel’s boss?
“He, at no point, mentions that pterodactyls are not dinosaurs, but are, in fact, flying reptiles related to and living at the same time as dinosaurs,” Rook points out. “Considering how obnoxious he is about evolution and many other topics in his expertise, he definitely would have said something. Most paleontologists would have, since this is a big misconception.”
So, based on all the facts uncovered in this serious investigation: Is Ross Geller a good or bad paleontologist? The experts give their final opinions:
Adam Pritchard: “Ross must be a MAD GENIUS. He talks about random, unrelated scientific techniques, like carbon-dating, MRI scans, and DNA analysis. He clearly developed some unified theory of paleontology that brings everything together.
“I’m grateful to Friends. It presents a paleontologist as more than just his job. We all have lives besides science.”
Deborah Rook: “As for him being a ‘good’ paleontologist, I’ll give him a few nods. I do appreciate the fact that he studied geology and paleontology. He seems to care at least a little about his teaching, which is more than I can say for a lot of faculty. And he loves dinosaurs.
“I will say that as a huge Friends fan from the ’90s, I am a paleontologist not because of Ross but in spite of him. He was my least favorite character on my favorite show. I just wish Chandler had been a paleontologist, then everyone would know what we’re really all like. [laughs]”