Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Job

Today's post has nothing to do with food, but since this is my blog, I'm going to talk about whatever is on my mind. It hasn't been food lately...

I started out in science as a wide-eyed girl full of curiosity. Genetics with its complicated logic and mathematical puzzles fascinated me. I went to graduate school to further understand and learn what we are made of - our genes - and how disease creeps in by breaking the complex network of signals our bodies maintain.

Somewhere along the line, I developed a conscience. I was no longer satisfied by fulfilling my own curiosity. I wanted to do something that would benefit the world that has given me so much. I specialized in cancer research and dedicated many years to advance our understanding of how cancer originates. At times, I sacrificed time with my family, and ultimately, by the time I became a professional, my job had cost me a very precious relationship.

I started doubting my commitments, priorities, and decisions as I sat alone. How much had I really accomplished? What, really, did I achieve?

I can now consider myself an asset to science, comfortably manipulating the genetics of various cells. I am a critical thinker, able to address problems with experimental solutions. At times, my design may not be perfect, but I have learned to adjust and redirect with the slightest hints of troubled progress. But what does all that add up to being?

We are still dying of cancer, and even worse, many of the world's population do not live long enough to succumb to cancer, plagued by infectious diseases, war, and malnutrition. If I really want to make a difference, if I really want to do something meaningful, am I on the right track?

For me to make a difference, perhaps I should be teaching the next generation of scientists instead of spending more solitary hours in my laboratory, mulling over the next experiment. I will likely never reach the heights of research science, where fierce competition breeds arrogance and elitism. And I am fine with that. I'm feeling the limits of my individual contribution as a scientist - perhaps my next step ought to be reaching out to the younger scientists to awe them with the complicated puzzle that once consumed my imagination. The transition will not be easy, and I am not sure what support or opportunities I will find. Will I feel like a failure who could not make it in research science? Or will I feel like the bold adventurer, opening new doors without fear chaining me to the status quo?

Maybe, just maybe, it is time for me to take the next step.


yamo said...

Good luck on the path that you choose!

Uchipu said...

...you're too young for a mid-life crisis....

Remember 98% of the workforce doesn't like what they do for a living.


englishman said...

Science is like that! The length of the time commitment, lack of financial or any other reward for many many years, means that every scientist (like 100%) has periods of feeling like they're not doing what they set out to do. I live for the 1 in 100 days when I feel like my research is making a difference and really going somewhere. Does it make up for the hard work, being poor, and the other 99 days?? Hard to decide.