Have you ever wondered whether you’re “cut out” for science? I mean, it just seems so easy for everyone else, right? In science as in life, our personal paths can often seem impassably bumpy and twisted when we compare them to those of our peers.
But life is never so simple. For too long, there has been an idea that there’s a “right” way to land in a science career, a “traditional” path to the scientific way of life. Their way or the highway. When you start to dig into it, though, you find that no such thing exists.
Kevin Zelnio, SciAm blogger and Deep Sea News editor, is an all-around bad-ass dude, and he came to science in a decidedly non-traditional fashion. He wouldn’t trade it in for anything, and he figured he wasn’t the only one out there who found science outside “traditional ways”.
Magical things can happen when you enthusiastically open your mouth on the internet. One of these magical things is learning how personal experience shapes people’s lives. Looking into others causes you to look into yourself. And then something really magical happens – we learn we are not alone. Among our unique, personal experiences lies a universal experience we all share – the events of lives have shaped who have become to a great extent.
Preposterous as it may seem, everyone – even in science – is pretty unique. We of the generations X and Y just talk about it. In fact, the distinguishing characteristic between those scientists online and those offline is our unfathomable ability to not shut up. Somehow, we tend to be just as productive on average. Individual mileage may vary.
So he started the #IAmScience tag on Twitter, and people from all branches of science have been sharing their personal histories, twisted paths and surprising motivations. I came into science in a more-or-less “traditional” path, from hating pre-med to loving labs, then tiptoeing my way up the ladder through research jobs and grad school. It was eye-opening to learn how varied our community really is.
It’s a living history of the beauty of non-traditional paths into science. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking you’re alone on your path, you should give them all a read.