Why We Do What We Do

Tue, 10/13/2009 - 10:50am

Autumn is easily my favorite season. There’s just something about crisp days and nights that I enjoy, despite its reputation for a season of endings. There’s actually quite a bit that begins in the autumn. Football season, for example, is one autumn beginning that excites millions. More importantly, and potentially less exciting to millions, the school year also begins in the fall.


For many students headed off to college, this will be their first steps in joining our industry. And as potential future readers of Bioscience Technology, I wish them well. A career as a scientific researcher does not have a reputation as a highly paid career—at least not in academia. It can also be a pretty thankless job with long hours in the lab and not a lot of recognition. So why do it?


I’d imagine that a feeling of working towards creating a better world certainly adds to the allure of this profession. A career in research, for example, has a fundamental difference than a career in industry—the motivations are based on discovery and not on profit. But is that enough to offset the lure of the huge potential salary gains that come with pursuing a curriculum focused on business. For some people, sure, but I suspect that it is not for many more, and other forces are at work.


Our industry is unique in that it is often only limited by the imagination of those working in it. If you can think of it and find funding (which often presents its own difficulties), then you can work on it. That’s a lot of freedom, and I have seen press releases announcing results on research that I would have never thought of. I could see how that degree of freedom would attract young students who are deciding how to spend their next 40 years.


There are also fundamental differences between research and industry that could be attractive to those choosing their life’s work. High levels collaboration, potential foreign travel, and a higher degree of job security are all benefits of a career in research. In the end, however, I think most people choose to work in this industry because they have a passion for it. I can see this at nearly every trade show I attend. The poster areas tends be busy, and sessions are nearly always full. Why did you become a researcher? Was it a passion for the sciences? I’m curious to know.



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