Friday, September 17, 2010

Dilettante Fo Life

This recent post at Ed Yong's blog, "Not Exactly Rocket Science," (as if you didn't know. psh.) is about one of the scads of scientific discoveries that I find fascinating, that I would love to work on... but probably wouldn't really love to work on.

In the post, Ed talks about a gene therapy treatment for thalassemia that uses the patient's stem cells and a lentivirus modified to contain the working gene for the patient's faulty haemoglobin subunit. The virus infects the patient's stem cells, some of the cells get the right gene in the right place, the cells are put back in the person, and hopefully the patient starts making their very own functional haemoglobin.

How. Cool. Is That. I originally went to graduate school wanting to work on viral-mediated gene therapy. This is what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, I didn't really look around much for graduate schools. This was partly due to my atrocious long-range planning skills and partly due to the fact that I was single-parenting a two-month-old and didn't want to move too far from my family. So I ended up at a research institution that is large and well-regarded, but did not have anyone doing what I wanted to do. The closest thing I could find was a bacteriophage lab, so I joined it.

It did not go well.

I blinded myself to a lot of things, most importantly that A) it had nothing to do with what I was interested in and B) the PI and I did not get along at all.

So I transferred to another lab, the lab I am currently in and will receive my Ph.D. from. I like my lab. I think very highly of my PI, I get along with my labmates more than it seems like most people do, I have a good balance of autonomy and guidance, we have at least some money... but the last five years have made it abundantly clear that this is not what I'm going to do for much longer. After I get my degree, I will not stay in academia. This decision was originally precipitated by the realization that no matter how many interesting questions I came up with, I got tired of them after a couple of papers. I have no scientific follow-through. I am, if I may steal the label from a friend of mine, a dilettante. I REALLY LIKE SCIENCE. I just don't want to do it. I want to learn about it and hear about it and talk about it... but I don't want to DO IT. 

So. What to do? This brought me to science writing (albeit through a long, painful path). What do you think, Internet? If I really like science but don't want to do it, can appreciate the minutiae but only for about two days, am smart, have been trained in assimilating and obtaining information fairly quickly, have an extensive understanding of some fields but am interested in almost all of them, can write, like to be busy, work best under deadlines... could science writing be for me?

1 comment:

  1. Teach. We need science teachers (in upper levels too) that still have a passion for science. You'll have to keep learning about science to keep ahead of science, you'll likely have to teach more than one subject, which will mean broad exposure to science, and since our school systems are so underfunded, you'll be writing grants. Either that or become an editor. I met one of the editors for Nature at a conference a while back...she knew a little about everything, still went to conferences to learn more, and didn't have to write grants. You may still have to do a post doc though.

    Good luck!