At our second-year anniversary show last Tuesday we wanted to hear stories from the audience. The evening was about twisted and unorthodox paths to careers in science, so we handed out slips that asked, "If you're a scientist, how did you get into it? If you're not, why not?" We got an amazing response, and couldn't possibly read all the answers from the stage. So, as promised at the event, here are all the answers we received. (You can also see a video we made of people's I Am Science stories here.)
"Not. I was afraid of my lab director. Just kidding. Sort of. I was too afraid to commit to one field , become too specialized, antisocial, and boring. But now, as a science journalist, I commit to every field. Which I have to learn in 20 minutes—before my story is due. So now I’m frantic, specialize in everything, and am too social. Weeee!"
"I’m not a scientist because I wanted to go into writing, where all the big money is. (@cqchoi)"
"I started studying psychology because I wanted to understand why people do what they do. I left psychology and moved into acting because I wanted to understand why we do what we do by trying on a bunch of personalities. Now I’m a professor and director, still trying to answer the same questions but with less statistics."
"Am not a scientist. Started out as a mechanical engineer and adored applied physics and math but ultimately fell in love with design and education."
"Not. Too lazy."
"When I was 10 I wanted to be a paleontologist. When I was 15 I went to high school and found that I was terrible with numbers, details, locations, names, dates, times, and pretty much every skill that might make me a scientist. ... So I went to film school at Columbia."
"It’s rather ironic; now that I think about it, I fell into science because I like knowing the truth. I like knowing fundamentally what is true in life, facts! I think in school my natural tendencies to math and science, as opposed to humanities, reflect that. Funny enough, the more I am in the field of science the more I am aware how much it is not that, and how much uncertainty, faith, and creativity are central to science. Everything lectured as facts are hypotheses created in the human mind and shown through labor and human observation. It’s always more complex than truth, there really is no fact, and that is the beauty of science."
"Not studying science was never an option for me, but three years into my PhD, I couldn’t handle the failing anymore. I survived another three years, got my PhD, and now I write about science. Even though I no longer work at the bench, I’ll never stop being a scientist."
"I grew up catching frogs as a kid. At first I wanted to be a paleontologist, then a marine biologist. A high school biology class turned me onto genetics. I studied molecular genetics and computer science in college. Now I design proteins with computer programs."
"Wanted to save the earth, realized science could help."
"Collected baseball cards as a kid, but did it for the statistics on the back. Ended up going to school for math/stats."
"I went to school in Florida so I never had good science teachers. Or math teachers. Or English teachers. I’m surprised I can even write this."
"I am a scientist in training. I got into it by playing in my backyard as a kid, turning over logs and rocks and finding creepy crawly animals."
"I wanted to study dogs and I grew the balls to do it."
"I had a red and blue Fisher Price doctor’s kit as a child that I loved. Now I’m a med student with a real stethoscope and sphygmomanometer. Both are purple."
"I’m not. After I slept with one I found out I’m not perfect enough."