They’ve been doing construction outside of my window at work pretty much since I started. I don’t know what they’re doing to the road, and it’s not loud, and only has a few people working on it, but now that they’ve moved over and the ginkgo tree outside my window is blocking them, I’m annoyed. I like watching them. They’re something calming about watching someone doing their job when it doesn’t affect you. It’s difficult to sit at my desk all day, watching people hurry past, listening to them talk about important things to other, and just do nothing. I’d like to at least be able to pretend that I’m important, that I’m part of the company. But the sad truth is that I’m neither. I’m a summer intern. My time is up at the end of August. Why should they bother to teach me things that they can do better and faster when I’m not going to be around long to do it.
School is a bit easier. It’s temporary for everyone. At the end of the semester the students are done with the professor and the professor is done with the students, all of them. There is a set curriculum. There are tasks to be done and lessons to be learn. There is structure. And as a student, you can decide if you interact with the professor or not. You can simply go to class, listen and take notes, and take the tests, or you can constantly ask questions in and out of class. Most professors will help you if you show an interest in being helped. I personally like being one of the crowd. I am not so special that I feel the need to stand out. I am independent to the point that if I have a question I will exhaust all other options before I go to the professor. But knowing that they are there if I need them is nice.
Becoming a professor is slowly starting to be an option for me. I’ve thought very little of it before. And mostly with a high school teacher in mind, which I’m still pretty sure is off the list. Only recently have I decided that research seems much more interesting than my current industry work, despite the fact that technically I’m doing research. It’s possible that my opinions on the pharmaceutical industry are skewed from the viewpoint of a summer intern, but research seems so exciting, so mysterious. And that is the nature of research, mystery. We try to find out what we do not know. The reason I like the idea of research is the same reason that I like school (or at least the idea of it). I want to know what others know, and when I’ve run out of that, I want to know what no one knows.
The strangest thing is that while I contemplate the possibility of me becoming a professor solely for the purpose of participating in cutting edge research, I find that the classroom aspect may appeal to me as well. The more I think about it, the more they are similar. As a preface I will simply state that I have never enjoyed creating my own experiment, but I believe that that may be because in high school it wasn’t your own experiment, you just had to figure out what the teachers really wanted you to do. In research you have a start and an end. There is what you know, and what you want to learn. You design an experiment based on these parameters (and the instruments you have) to get from one to the other. Working with students is the same thing. They come into your class knowing a certain amount that is relevant to your subject, everyone is different. You must take these students, and conduct an experiment. Teach them what they might have learned so far, and then expand into what they don’t yet know. Some of the “samples” will come out as desired, with a high level of understanding, and some will come out as less than desired. But all of these data points are used to adjust the experimental process. A good professor will alter their syllabus every semester based on their previous results. Their goal is to produce as many desirable results as possible. A class is always changing, and there are new surprises every semester.
As I type these words out I come to realize the potential of becoming a professor as a rewarding career, not just for the research, but also to teach others. And hopefully, to encourage others to desire to learn. Maybe not to enjoy learning, because I know that sometimes I loathe it, but to want to learn despite the difficulties. I remember when I was little, and just starting to read chapter books, I came to the realization that libraries don’t simply exist in my town, or state or country, but in the entire world. And how on earth was I going to get through every book before I died. Although I am unfortunately not much of a reader anymore, I still have that need to learn everything there is to learn. And even though I have narrowed it down to the sciences, and cut out a whole lot of knowledge, there is no way that I’m going to learn even a small percentage of what there is to know. Because of this, I must always be learning. I could never be satisfied with doing the same thing year after year.
So even though I have a while to think about it, I have just opened a previously blocked off road. Professor Dana Michelle Placha (Ty and I will most certainly be married by then, and there might be a PhD. in there too).
Tags: research, teaching