Saturday, June 30, 2012


I'm afraid of blogging.  It feels permanent, exposed, out there for ridicule.  Aren't there too many people blogging already?  That said, I occasionally take a leap and force myself to do things that scare me.  What's life for, if not to try new things?  

For the past few years I have been ruminating about making a big change.  Now I am finally ready to take a leap.

What inspired me to act now was a conversation I had with a fellow scientist the other day about her decision to leave science.  That sounds melodramatic.  She's not leaving altogether but she is leaving life as she knows it, life at the bench.

There has been a lot of press lately about why highly educated women leave the field.  But I'm not sure that they are actually leaving; in the sense of completely abandoning their roots.  What seems closer to the truth is more nuanced.  Perhaps these scientists are actively deciding to set priorities in their own lives that allow them to balance work & home, and to rejuvenate.

Why does science stand in stark contrast to this trifecta?

For one thing, most of the work is background.  Long hours are required just to gain the skill and the tool kit necessary for the "real experiment."  The ultimate experiment (or more like several ultimate experiments) that you are expecting will give you great insight into the biological phenomena you're focused on, does not come cheap.  Virtually all your time feels like mere preparation for the real-thing.  Small steps forward are often mixed with large set backs.

I've wondered for the last three years how scientists - who are also mothers, are able to balance it all. I don't mean just getting by but really managing to balance: a healthy relationship with their significant other, cherishing their children, time to exercise; all while advancing their professional lives.

Is this struggle to balance really unique to scientists?  Speak to what you know is what they say.  The most successful scientists I know are OCD types who have channeled their obsessive tendencies into a highly productive work life.  And yet I wonder what gives.

Who is at home making sure the kids are happy, read to, bathed, fed, clothed, and nurtured?

So in hearing about my fellow scientists' decision to take control of her own life, set her own priorities (and after defending her PhD later this summer), to become a science educator (at the collegiate level) - I too felt emboldened to develop my own path toward science education (albeit for a much younger cohort).

As long as I have known this scientist I've been impressed by her dedication to research; her loyalty to her PI, her unwavering hours of devotion to bench work, her confidence, and her drive for understanding basic science.  

Why does it seem like she is giving something up?

Maybe it's just because I have always seen her as someone who could/would one day run her own successful lab. She has the ability and yet she is choosing to walk along a slightly adjacent path.  It's not a lesser path. I have to allow that realization for myself too. 

It is not a lesser path, but a peripheral one to traditional to hands-on-science, I feel sure she (and I) will now have the opportunity to inspire future scientists - many of whom will undoubtably be here - as I am - at a crossroad, needing to one day make a similar decision about how they want to spend their waking hours.  

I hope that through this blog I will push myself, educate myself, inspire and inform others about developing science curriculum for youngsters.