.sense and responsibility

 

by Christina

christina-bird.jpg

“Hi, so what do you do?”

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Pretty straightforward question. Hm, what do I do?

“Hello, I am a PhD student, at the Physics Department.”

At this point, many people who are no scientists, give me the default “oh you poor soul, why” – look. A few scientists do, too.

“PhD? In Physics?”

“It’s actually quite fun.”

Usually this doesn’t help my case with the other party.

At this point - not just on one occasion - I have felt the urge to snap my fingers in their face and go

“Hey, I am not insane –“

and (while flailing my arms around) shout

“It’s a real job, I swear!11!!”

(Note to self: I should really do that sometime.)

But you know…

…instead, in a standard conversation, I start describing my research field, how I am trying to answer my research question…

…while inevitably watching a deepening frown on the other party’s face.

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If only they knew how right they are.

My research either is bordering or inside the “completely irrelevant” category, depending on what kind of day we’re having.

“Hmh.” – said everyone.

Don’t get me wrong – for the record, I think the methodology is nerdy, the instruments are cool and the community is both. I got lucky and I mean it when I say: “It’s actually quite fun”. But – these things don’t change the fact that my research question is super niche and has been created by a small community for a small community.

Whatever information I discover and will publish as PhD student will probably be there for the hell of it.

Stating anything else – is delusional – if I may say so myself.

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Before I go on, I feel like there are two things I need to clarify:

What makes this research possible – bottom line – is reverse engineering a research question to a rare methodology – for better or for worse.

What keeps me going despite this rather bleak view of things is – bottom line – my opinion getting what a PhD degree is about. To teach the person that does it anything but what their random research topic is about.

“It’s a real job, I swear!11!!”

(Note to self: never say that, ever, because it isn’t.)

“But wouldn’t you agree it’s irresponsible pouring public funds into a project that makes no significant contribution to humanity?”

No wonder people frown. If only they knew how right they are.

Can’t blame anyone, since

– as of today, anyway –

“I’m doing my PhD for the hell of it.”

“Come on, you don’t make any sense, there must be a reason you do what you do.”

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“Hi, so what do you do?”

 

Time to change my answer.

“Hello, I am training to be a good scientist.”

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“What I do” is not a job, it’s a collective investment.

“Hello, I am a scientist. We are many, we work together and together we can do great stuff.”

 

I owe you one. Big time.

Yours truly.

#anemergency