Friday, January 20, 2006


In theory, my job once I finish school will be that of 'scientist'. Part of being a scientist, in any of its incarnations, is explaining research: how you did it, what it means, what importance is has?

This is an area I need to work on, as exemplified by my reluctance to talk about my work to my parents. My parents are both quite intelligent; both have BS degrees in their fields and work full time using that knowledge. No one in my family, not even a distant relative, has ever gone to graduate school. It is a whole new world that none of them understand. I get questions like:

-"If you aren't taking classes, what do you do all day?"
-"How much longer do you have? 3 more years! Haven't you already been there 3 years?" (Yes).
-"What is this big exam you keep talking about? How does it work?"
-"What exactly are you working on again?"

Some days, I try my best to explain the whole process or my research. Explaining my research in layman's terms is the hardest of all, and yet something I will wind up doing my entire life. I suppose I could use the practice. Some days though, I just want to chat with my family and not have to explain the nuances of the oral exam or the thesis, or what I do all day. I find myself getting annoyed that they don't understand it all.

I think a major reason why I have started this blog and why I read other blogs is the sense of community I've found among the science (and othe academic) bloggers. The professors have been there, the postdocs have been there, the other students are slogging through along with me. There is a sense of innate understanding here in the blogosphere that I have yet to find anywhere else. If I complain about a gel not running, at least five readers out there can leave comments and say "Oh, that sucks, have you tried X?" Quite amazing!

In the end I just need to realize that there are benefits to being in both the layperson world and the expert world.


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