Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I like working in science

I've always wanted to be a scientist - well since grade 4 when I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I lost momentum. My dad wanted me to be a doctor so I went into medical imaging. After sometime out of school I went back, did chemical technology then did my undergrad degree by correspondence thru U Waterloo. Zuska had a post on women choosing science as a career path. What is so great about working in science and would I do it again?

I have to say absolutely I would do it again and if anything I would have switched to chemistry after one year of medical imaging so I could get into a field I enjoy faster. Would I encourage others to choose the same path? Not if they are looking for fame and/or fortune.

I've found working in a lab to be a good mix of working with people and working alone. I've met some really great coworkers and mentors while having the usual mix of bosses. I've had opportunities to take leadership roles myself. I like learning new stuff and continue to do so after all this time but there's routine as well. While I'm disappointed (yet lucky since I get motion sick at the drop of a hat) at not going into space, I did get to analyse data for the Canadian Space Agency. And now I'm in the corporate world, the money is pretty good especially compared to traditional fields.

There has been concern about tempting women into science and engineering as well as much (legitimate) handwringing over the loss of women at the graduate level. Certainly when I was at the Uni stage we had Women in Science and Engineering groups that focused on mentoring undergraduates to at least stay in science/eng and perhaps consider grad school. Twenty years on, I think things have gotten more difficult for young women thinking of the sciences. Society is on an anti-intellectual, conservative swing where fitting in by being womanly is more valued than anything else one could contribute. Some women seem to think we're in a post-feminist age where women have gained equality so it's time to choose to focus on family and creating the perfect home complete with scrapbooking. Other successful women seem to think of themselves like Queen Victoria - she could be queen but mere women had to be protected from themselves.

In some ways we are lucky. With more learning options you can indulge your interest in science without becoming a scientist - just use google scholar instead of in your quest for science knowledge.