Out of Hiding: The Artsy-Scientist's Mid-life Crisis

I am having a mid-life crisis. Wait, I’m only 27… I’m having a mid- academic -life crisis. Indeed, I am not about to bust out on the town and purchase a sparkling new cherry Ferrari (as a peanut-butter&bread eating college student, I’m afraid that would be dang near impossible). Instead, I’m about to leave a traditional career path, at least from the perspective of many pure-science academics, 6 years in the making. I might have lost my marbles.

moon footprint.jpg

Currently a PhD student in Biomedical engineering, I’m looking to leave the hard-science bench top, at least temporarily, in order to explore my more creative side, seeking opportunities and higher education as a science writer. I suppose one might say I’m going against the grain, breaking for good the stereotype of inarticulate engineer. My love for science recently experienced its own revival, a renaissance period shrunk down to fit perfectly inside my own one-road lifetime. The driving force for this revival, for this rift in my once smooth path to academic scientist? Writing. Although synthesizing beakerloads of precious metal nanomaterials (I currently belong to a material science laboratory) simply does not hold the same awe for me that it once did, my love of science is hardly dead.

I wrote to my graduate dean just last week, a daring 4 months after my official debut as a science blogger for Nature Network:

“After much deliberation and a few tears, I have decided to withdraw from the PhD program in Biomedical Engineering. It has taken much courage for me to get to this point, but I believe that in the interest of my happiness and my passion for a different career path, science writing and communications, it is best for me to close this door and pursue new opportunities for a formal education in Journalism and Mass Communications. I will always be thankful for the wonderful opportunity that this University gave me, to join the ranks of its bright minded scientists, and for the experience filled with learning and self-discovery that this year has been for me.”

So here goes. I am jumping off the deep end and into the great blue beyond, taking the road less traveled, to which I owe thanks to my poet friend Frost. I am not exactly sure where this road will lead me, but my eyes are open, and I’m willing to see cracks in a wall as doors of opportunity. After all, a great writer can paint a doorframe where only a wall exists outside of his or her word-doped paper. Now this is the true creative process.

Robert Frost THE ROAD NOT TAKEN.jpg

I will be applying for next fall to the PhD program within the Manship School of Mass Communication, back at my beautiful alma mater. My desired specialty will be science communications. With the application submitted, I will begin to pray, all the while writing about every step in the journey, of course! Here is to science… and here is to my pen. Here is to nanoscience, the metastatic niche, quantum voltaics, and reprogrammed retinas… they dance the morrice across my ink-filled pages just as Joyce’s algebra did on his.

Link to my original blog_, Hiding Place for the Artsy-Scientistbench/2011/04/24/hiding-place-for-the-artsy-scientist-1

1. Image – PAUL ROBBENS & GUS YORK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY – Footprint on the Moon. Mock-up of an astronaut’s footprint on the surface of the Moon. The Earth can be seen at upper centre. Apollo 11 (16-24 July, 1969) was the first mission to successfully land an astronaut on the moon. The historic lunar landing took place on the 20th July, 1969.

Editorial (2011). Fix the PhD. Nature, 472 (7343), 259-60 PMID: 21512527