Sugar Daddy: The importance of being… there

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Posted on behalf of Sugar Daddy

There seems to be this mindset among scientists, particularly chemists, that what we do is noble and somehow above the fray. Perhaps it comes from our training as graduate students. We live lives often completely removed from the world around us. We have friends who go home at 5 pm, cook dinner every night, watch TV programs, write books, do crossword puzzles, or other “normal” things. These people don’t “take” the whole weekend off; it is naturally given to them, an unalienable right of living in the “real world”. We are in a research lab and when we leave for brief periods, we don’t leave our work behind. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but every now and then — going to get your driver’s license renewed, or “taking” a day off to go to some tourist site because a family member or friend is in town — we cross paths with the real world around us.

Bubble, meet daylight.

Long hours and an physico-emotional connection to our work are probably two of the most hackneyed topics amongst graduate students in science. But why is it that way? The obvious answer is ambition, a state of mind that isn’t unique to aspiring young scientists but can be applied to aspiring people in any walk of life — lawyers, politicians, chefs, artists, sports players, etc. But there is something unique about science. Many of us have a sense of elitism, that what we do really is that important, so noble, and there’s this sense of urgency that we can never put it down for fear of being overtaken. And that feeling, I think, contributes to a sense that we really shouldn’t be doing much else at all with our time. Do you think that? I know some graduate students do, and I’m curious as to where this feeling comes from: ourselves, our advisors, who are typically the ones who have risen to the top (one particularly cynical comment to a previous post comes to mind), our work environment, or other influences entirely?