I Can’t Decide: How urgent is it to know what to do in life and in science

My cousin decided to study Biology just like I did (same university, hence same program). While she wants to go on a different research subject, so far she also wants to follow an academic pathway, and so she has asked me a lot of questions to subjects I wished I knew more about when I was starting. These will be a series of posts based on that premise. Please keep in mind all these posts will be based on personal experiences

How urgent is it to know what to do in science?

Maybe the key word here is urgent. It’s not urgent to know what you want to do, is not imperative that you decide on what branch of science you’re going to work from your first year of your undergrad and you might realize that you don’t really know until very late in your studies. But it does help to narrow down your options as you go.

In my case, I knew very early that I wanted to work in a lab. However, my undergrad program was very broad, which allowed me to experience other possibilities, such as field work and even in the lab, to work a bit in microbiology, biochemistry and cell biology.  

As you advance in your studies, you will encounter more and more options; if you want to work in biochemistry you might realize later that what you are really interested in is protein interactions, and then just the interactions of one single protein, and so on. Of the biochemistry group I was part of during the end of my undergrad studies, there is one person working on Aging, one working in Evolutionary Biology, someone working on patents and then there’s me who, as you know, works in Protein Interactions.

However, it does help to start questioning early on what do you really like and maybe even where do you see yourself in the future. Knowing this it would be easier for you to decided which elective classes to take (for example, I took extra classes of Cell and Molecular Biology), which labs/research groups to try to get in, heck even which languages to work on. The reason why I re started my French classes during my undergrad was that back I knew a lot of original work had and was being done in cell biology in French (French used to be the science language also) and so I wanted to be able to read those papers. Ultimately it was extra useful since I ended up doing my graduate studies in a francophone institution

Now, bear in mind that you knowing right now that you want to work on something might not mean that you will work on it. Projects can change a lot during your research life. It might be due to funding, someone scooping you, or simply that the project is not advancing. Do not despair if this happens, as a project is only a tiny part of a bigger subject (case in point, my project aims one single protein of thousands inside one type of cell) that you could still tackle, just from a slightly different angle. 

So don’t fret if you are starting your undergrad, or even half way through and you haven’t 100% decided what you want to do in science. If you have the opportunity to sample the different options that are attractive to you, go for it. Get informed and take your time. Good luck. 

I Can't Decide--Scissor Sisters

No comments:

Post a Comment