Monday, May 31, 2010

Celebration (Scientiae, June 2010)

This months Scientiae topic is "celebration." I'm facing a lot of personal and professional challenges right now, so it's a good time to force me to look at what's going well.

Professionally, I feel like I'm finally seeing where I want to go. I love writing and words. I always have. But I have also always loved learning how things work and analyzing the bejeezus out of them. In undergrad, I chose to pursue science because I knew I'd get to learn about and analyze the natural world. I also that scientists have to write a lot. Little did I know of the chasm between the writing I loved in English class and scientific writing. If I wrote a paper in scientific style for any other audience, it'd be burned in horror.

I've also noticed throughout my education that scientists and non-scientists often have difficulty communicating effectively. Each side has a hard time putting themselves in the other's shoes. Scientists want the public to be more informed, and the public wants scientists to explain things more clearly. When one side or the other lacks the ability or inclination to remedy the situation, an intermediary can help.

That's what I want to be. I want to be the middle-(wo)man who helps people see how science impacts their lives and helps scientists understand the needs of society. I want to write about science for a less specialized and non-scientist audience. Given my recent aimlessness, this realization is certainly cause for celebration. It has renewed my enthusiasm for learning and research. I'm really enjoying my copy-editing class and I'm making much better progress toward my PhD on a more consistent basis.

I don't need a PhD to be a science writer, but it wouldn't hurt to have the credential and the time in graduate school may supply many more professional development opportunities. With those extra experiences in hand, I'd have a better chance of finding a suitable job when I graduate, and I'd maintain financial security and flexibility in my schedule and location in the mean time.

Personally, I've been committing more time to things I enjoy. I'm writing more, I'm reading more, I'm traveling more, and I'm more physically active. I've read more books this year so far than I did all of last year, or maybe even in the last two years. I'm riding 75 miles next Sunday. I recently received my yellow belt in jujitsu, which I attend reguarly when I'm in Grad School Town. I spend all of spring break on the east coast with friends just for fun. Before last November, I don't remember taking any trips that were just for fun. They were all family vacations or work-related.

It's incredibly liberating to chase my dreams and passions. None of it is without stress or worry (because those are present no matter what), but it is all completely worth it. I am much happier for following my heart even if it means taking a (sometimes significant) chance and hoping it works. After all, if I won't take risks to be happy, what's the point in having dreams?

See the rest of the carnival, June Scientiae Carnival: We’re Having a Party, at Rocket Scientista.


  1. (I got here from Isis who says hi)

    Science writing is needed and valuable and maybe even fun! You might have more luck writing books than working on a newspaper, given how things are going at newspapers lately. Best wishes!

  2. Pleased to meet you, Gingerale, and thank you!

    Based on some online research, many newspapers don't even have dedicated science reporters. Many science writers are employed by universities and other research agencies.

    Lucky for me that I'm not stuck on any medium or type of employer (yet). I'd like to give different outlets a try before I pretend that I know exactly where I want to go. I have a feeling that my penchant for researching the hell out of things will serve me well.

  3. I came via both Isis and the Scientae Carnival.

    I've been listening to The World: Science podcast who features a science writer from Sigma Xi. I don't know if you listen to this podcast or podcasts at all, but every so often Ritu and Elsa give some insight into the current state of science writing and reporting. Thought you might want to check it out.

  4. Also glad to meet you, Balancing Act!

    I haven't listened to too many podcasts yet. I have a bunch in my queue that I want to check out. I'll definitely add that one. Thanks!