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The Big Picture

September 1, 2009

I think I’m approaching graduate school with a very different perspective, and coincidentally a very different goal, than my peers. And while the benefits of that are important, I think I need to start taking a few pages from their books.

The major difference I’m facing has a big part to do with what we each individually want from this 5.5 year experience. For a lot of these kids, they want a Ph.D. in biology and the lab experience and the publishing credits to go on and get more lab experience and publishing credits to someday run their own lab. And to a certain extent, that’s what I think I want too. But while not everyone is as certain about all of this as I make it sound, I definitely feel the most lost. The general consensus of people have broad goals, are unsure of what kind of research they want to do, and what lab they want to end up in. And that’s exactly the point of this first year of rotations: to get a taste of everything you might like to see where your passions lie.

But I’m not so sure about research. I decided to apply and go to graduate school because I thought it was the next logical step. I decided I did not want to pursue chemical engineering, so that took out grad school in engineering and going to work in industry from my list of options. I decided a long time ago not to go to med school, so all that left was this second major in biology. And graduate studies in biology was definitely the best choice for me. Nothing makes me happier than getting to talk about science. Nothing makes me happier than learning some new story about how we came to be or what is the world in which we live. Nothing makes me happier than getting to share those stories with others.

So it made sense. Of all my choices, all my decisions, it made sense to go to grad school. But the thing that I’ve noticed since getting here. Not even that. Since meeting people in my interview weekend or randomly chatting with people on facebook. I have a different goal than everyone else. Everyone else wants great rotations and to find themselves in research, find what they like, find their niche. I want great rotations because I want to find myself in science, find out what’s out there, what’s going on in this world, and get to share the stories that I’ve learned. I want to teach what I’m learning, first and foremost.

But while the big picture in my mind is different, I do need to open my eyes wider and see what is going to be best for my career. because like it or not, I’m on a track to becoming a research biologist, and I need to start acting that way. So after a strenuous day, and a lot of meetings, I decided to switch rotations. These first few rotations I need to put my career first and look at the labs I may want to join. Then maybe I can explore the world.

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