Friday, November 28, 2008

Pragmatic Me

I was reading RPG's blog, and his latest entry is one which ultimately deals with why he is a scientist. It boils down to, as he states ...
I don’t do science because it’s useful, or important. I do science because I find it beautiful.
I have no problem with that, but that is certainly not how I found myself in the world of science.

For me, it started in high school. We took that awful preliminary SAT test ... called, oddly enough, the PSATs. When you take that test, it comes back to you with a list of careers you might be ideally suited for. At the top of the list for me: Medical Technologist. A career I had zero information about. So, I started looking around (this was a time before that series of tubes called "the internets") and got literature from a number of universities. They all painted a nice picture about their Med Tech programs. I always did better in my english, history, and political science classes as a student, but I just couldn't see myself in a career within those fields. Exactly what would I do? is something I constantly asked myself. Be a librarian? was the response that my mind often came up with.

I wanted no part of being a librarian.

A medical technology position wasn't "high profile", though it could be a good start towards getting into a med school. What med tech provided however was an almost guaranteed source of employment from the minute I was given my diploma. As a child who grew up solidly middle class, this was a big deal. I saw how my parents struggled with keeping food on the table and a roof overhead, I saw the intense work ethics of my dad and grandpa, I knew I'd have to eventually do the same ... and being a librarian didn't seem like a very good source of income. I don't say this to degrade librarians, because pay may be really good ... but no one ever gave me any information as a teenager on what it was like to be a librarian. When found in such a vacuum, you fill it the only way you know how *shrug*.

At any rate, so based on the results of that PSAT test, and the information I found on Med Tech (not to mention those PSAT's seem to be serve as a recruitment tool for colleges because every Med Tech program in the land started sending me brochures on their particular program), I figured I'd look at colleges that offered the program. I looked at several, and each one of them spoke to the point of a low number of Med Tech's but a high demand for them. Base pay was good $16/hour (at the time) and bound to increase every year, so I figured I'd give it a try. It certainly seemed more challenging than any other subject I'd considered majoring in.

Beauty alas, never factored into the equation.

Now, as I've progressed in my career, I've been excited by several aspects of my work ... most notably, I find it cool that if I do an experiment ... I may very well be the first person EVAR to do that particular experiment to answer that specific question on that specific organism. But that isn't what keeps me going. What keeps me going is that paycheck I receive. Now, it helps that I love what I do. I most certainly do, but my particular job affords me many benefits which allow me to love it, and want to persist in doing it.

I guess there are those who will persist in doing something because they find it beautiful. I'm happy for them. For me, that simply isn't the case. I think what I do is important AND useful, both for the environment, my field, and more importantly myself ... and all for different reasons. I'm afraid beauty simply doesn't fit into the equation, or if it does it's not a factor which is weighted very heavily.


Marimoy said...

Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do... yours are valid as well.

Ivan Privaci said...

I did one of those "career assessment" tests when I first started college years ago.

Results - #1: City Planner. #2: FBI Agent.

Most peculiar. I can kind of see why those results came up, but to this day, I've never even played "Sim City"...

My own general career goal is to exercise and get the most effective use out of my best natural talents and skills. If one is enough of a romantic (or egotist), one might find that in and of itself a beautiful thing.

Successful Researcher: How to Become One said...

The tests are just what the are, one probably shouldn't read too much out of the results...