On science as a career

*Started drafting this during the most exhausting stage of my PhD. Two months later, I am well rested so I have the clarity to edit and eventually publish this reflection. If someone would ask me what the pros and cons of a scientific career are, these would be my answers:

Advantages                                                      

  • Flexible and you own your time (although long hours and danger to overwork)
  • Can continue exploring activism. Better(?) position to advance social justice. Scholarship and community engagement work well together (theory+practice)
  • Credibility, a little prestige and chance to make an impact on the lives of students
  • Intellectual challenge (the most important one!)

Disadvantages

  • Feels like an endless chase, you always need to keep yourself afloat (continuous grant proposal and writing papers, endless applications and reports)
  • Can be isolating (still, a large portion of the work is experiment and writing which is done alone, science communication is just a small part unless you will make it the central part of your work)
  • Highly competitive (so it always feels like there’s a need to prove yourself, always best foot forward). Even though it’s not a competition, it will feel like it, because there are limited slots for jobs, grants, and fellowships.
  • Easy to attach self-worth to external validation (awards, grants, praises from peers/seniors)
  • Science now is too structured. Less room for creativity. Hence, sometimes sucking out the life in a person
  • Sometimes too serious that it spills on other parts of your life
  • Doing research on fundamental science as opposed to applied research can feel selfish in this sociopolitical climate. (And yes, someone already told me that it’s a third world belief but people are dying, ano naaaa???).

Open questions

  • Let’s strip scientific career to its core, if there’s no free travel, no prestige, no awards and publicity, just the process of asking scientific questions, designing and executing experiments to answer the questions, would you stay?
  • I can’t seem to find a life mentor, maybe because my interests are so diverse, or maybe I’m not even sure what I want to focus on my career yet? Am I unteachable or just highly independent or am I not opening up that much? Do I need to look for mentors for each of my varied interests?

-nothing follows-

P.S. I would like to hear the thoughts of fellow grad students and practicing scientists. Let’s chat! 😀

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