Materials Girl: Why not?

Posted on behalf of Materials Girl

I never had chemistry, biology, or magic sets growing up, but still ended up aspiring to work in the field of science. Before the specific concept of “maxillofacial surgeon” was coherent to a 7-year-old, my calling in life was to perform surgery of some sort. Dissecting a myriad of formaldehyde-infused specimens in high school reinforced this idea (horrible fun, literally).

Then, the realities of med school – or horrors, if you will – became apparent, along with the recognition that mild squeamishness and fear of causing damage are characteristics that hardly behoove a surgeon. I realized that extreme mental strain is only justified for a passion (or a necessity, such as certain GE classes) – a category that medical school did not fall into, despite a potentially lucrative career on the far-off horizon.

So, I suppose this suggests the question that many of us have mused over: Why am I a chemist (or a materials engineer)? It’s generally safe to say that the motivation is not money, hours of writing proposals, the “thrill” of sitting around lab waiting for a reaction to complete, needing to redo that 57-step process, or whatever else plagues the followers of chemistry. A genuine thrill does exist, however. Why else would we subject ourselves to something that the general public may react poorly to? (“I abhorred high school chemistry and never took it again!”, “Is ‘mat sci’ mathematical sciences?”, “I could never work in a smelly lab all day!”, etc…)

Currently, as a lowly chemist in the making, my thrills primarily lie with the daily influx/deluge of information. In the future, I hope to turn that knowledge into innovative discoveries, or to pass it along to other generations to do the same. More recently, since becoming more aware of the publishing world, I’ve also pondered whether being an editor for a scientific journal would be a satisfying career choice. There are many options, but I’m not sure yet where my current path will take me.