Recently, I was chatting with someone who wanted to get out of academic research. First of all, I love science but I know it’s a career choice that’s not suited for everyone. There’s a lot of disillusionment for people who venture into research, who discover that science in the news is nothing like science in the laboratory. It is difficult to reconcile what you hear about rapid advancements in the medical field to the actual day-to-day grind where weeks can go by just to resolve one issue. And it is even more difficult sometimes to see the broader impact of your work when each experiment is designed to unravel a small detail of one aspect in an already narrow subject. So I wholeheartedly encourage people who have decided to go another track, because after all, science shouldn’t be confined to just the laboratory.

Anyways, this person noted how the truly dedicated scientists are the ones who still enjoy the process of research even when nothing works. These are the people who don’t mind investing time into chasing an answer even when it is to find that their hypothesis doesn’t work. They stay long past 5 o’clock because they cannot wait to run the results the next day, and they will spend hours reading “dry” science papers to find inspiration. I have been lucky in the past two years to have so much success in the lab. I can truly say that my work has been uncharacteristically fast-paced and unexpectedly rewarding. It is easy for me to be optimistic when almost everything have worked so smoothly. I can only hope that when the time comes for me to be put to the test, I would find myself steadfast in my passion; beaten down, maybe, but not hopeless.

And that can only come from remembering the reasons for choosing to be here. It has nothing to do with being better or being famous; I do not have to prove myself to be a good scientist by publishing the most papers in the best of journals. But it has everything to do with curiosity, creativity, and a sense of appreciation for life’s mysteries.

It is not about using science for yourself, but using yourself for science.

Medaka

Medaka five day old embryos within chorions

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