Who Should Be a Scientist?

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Bethany Hubbard/SCIENCE IN SOCIETY

The one question that every interviewer asks is: Why do you think a career in ______ (insert your field of interest here) is for you? For me that field is scientific research. People who are not scientists think research is boring. And, some people who are scientists don’t exactly love it.

But, I know a career in scientific research is perfect for me. I recently started my internship in a new research lab, and I absolutely love my work for two reasons: I am working on an amazing project and I am working with people who are amazed by science.

But a few years back, when I was at the cross-roads of picking a career, I didn’t know if a career in scientific research was for me or not. The only thing that I was sure about was that I wanted to do something that would have a meaningful impact on the world.

Scientific research is spread over so many fields that you will never have to be stuck doing one single thing for the rest of your life.

  • You can help find a cure for cancer or figure out how cells communicate.
  • You can be a botanist or a pathologist.
  • You can make computational models or work with cell cultures.             
  • You can study the natural ecosystem or you can study the micro-environmental niches found inside the human body.
  • You can be a molecular biologist or a geneticist or a marine biologist.
  • You can study how human life came into existence or you can study how to make humans immortal.
  • You can work on making robots more human or make robotic appendages for humans.
  • You can work on making fuel for spacecrafts or biofuel for cars.

To sum it up, the options are endless. If you ever had a crazy question like how does this work or why does something act like it does? And, if Google couldn’t give you an answer then it is probably being researched in some awesome lab in some part of the world.

Science is fascinating and in research you will learn something new with every experiment you complete. If you are someone on the verge of making a career choice, one way of knowing if a career in scientific research is for you is by reading about it. You don’t have to understand the complicated techniques that a research lab is using, but if you think you can relate to the “big-picture” goal that a lab has for a project (usually explained in the abstract/introduction section of a paper) then that is a start.

Lab techniques are easy to learn, but identifying a project where you can make a difference is difficult. Talking to scientists about their vision for the projects is always illuminating. Contrary to popular belief, scientists are the friendliest people in the world and are always excited to talk about their work.

Being a scientist is not a career choice but a life-style. Recently I was watching TV after a long day of imaging slides in lab and the only stuff on TV was pictures of celebrities doing random stuff. So, my brain made a crazy analogy: Biologists are like paparazzi but instead of stalking celebrities, our objects of interest are cells. We want amazing pictures of cells doing interesting stuff and if the images are good they sometimes end up on the cover of journals. (Am I the only one seeing the similarities?)

Being a scientist means you cannot shut down your science brain on whim. It also means you are going to point out everything that is wrong with every sci-fi TV show/movie. (Or get an inspiration for a futuristic project…)

So if you think you want to be amazed, learn something new every day and have a job title that Einstein and Newton had (job title: scientist!!!), then a career in scientific research is perfect for you.

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