Feeling the LOVE for Science this Valentine’s Day…#PhDTips
Perhaps you always knew even as a child that research was ‘the one’ for you or maybe it was the lab that chose you…Either way, science is an exciting partner for life, albeit one that can be highly frustrating on occasions and make inordinate demands on your time and energy. It can be a thrilling ride between desperate lows and dizzying heights. But this Valentine’s Day, let’s put all those failed experiments and long hours at the bench behind us as celebrate what we LOVE about science!
You never know how you might contribute to human knowledge
Your project may start out with a very clear definition but an unexpected result or chance observation can suddenly take it in a completely new direction. Some of the best scientific discoveries have come about through experiments not quite going quite as expected or through lucky accidents (think about penicillin!). Science also invites you to step into the unknown and ‘boldly go where none have been before’. As children, constantly asking “Why?” helped us make sense of the world around us and science allows us to indulge this curiosity into adulthood. What can be more exciting that answering “I don’t know” with “So let’s do an experiment and find out!” ? And even if your project has its fair share of menial tasks, you can draw satisfaction from knowing that you could be the first and only person investigating this question in the world…
New things are emerging all the time
Science never stays still: new disciplines are always coming together and exciting fields are emerging all the time. Like combining ingredients to make a cake, these often add up to more than their component parts. The combinations are only limited by our imagination as the traditional boundaries between biology, chemistry and physics fall away. From robotic agriculture to genetic medicine and organic electronics…the future looks wild if these ideas take hold.
You could end up seeing the world
You never know where your research will take you – all in the name of work! And whether it’s a field course, summer school or conference, there’s always a social element and opportunities to sample the local culture. Science is increasingly an international affair and collaborations with labs abroad positively encouraged. Perhaps my favourite science trip was a week-long workshop on modelling plant gene regulation … could there be anywhere more romantic to learn MatLab than Venice?! (even if the internet connection was a bit dodgy!)
You can inspire the world outside your lab
Want to get muddy? Play with cockroaches? Put on a live show? Build robots? Blow things up? You can pretty much do it all if it’s in the name of public engagement. No one can argue against the need to “inspire the next generation of scientists ” or help the public understand the amazing research they fund through their taxes – meaning that there is often specific funding available. And you can usually find a small army of likeminded people to help whatever hare-brained scheme you have to make it happen. Some of my favourite experiences have been science public engagement activities, including helping on a “live operating theatre’ at the Big Bang Fair and taking my plants into schools. Seeing how children are fascinated by what I do in the lab brings it home very time – I love science and am so lucky to do what I do!!!
Caroline Wood is midway through a PhD studying parasitic weeds at the University of Sheffield. When she’s not agonising over her experiments, she loves to write and will cover most scientific topics if they stay still long enough.
In her spare time, she enjoys helping at public outreach events, hill walking and escapism at the cinema. She blogs at: