Letters To A Young Scientist

No matter how much you love what you do, there comes a time when you’ll need wisdom, encouragement, war stories from someone more senior in the field, from someone who made it. No matter how hard you study, how much you try to catch up with the work, nothing will ever be enough for someone shooting for the stars, or at least something higher than the ground.

Being a professional writer and a graduate student of microbiology isn’t easy, and there are several times when I think about giving up one thing to focus on the other. I’m already splitting myself in half whenever the Writer **takes over. How much of myself will survive if I’m also living a double life as a scientist.

Let’s not forget the doubters, those that couldn’t imagine living the life you have, and therefore dismiss your skills. After all, not a lot of people can pull off living a double — even triple — life, right? Not everyone can be a Leonardo (unless you’re a genius) and I’m definitely not one.

Wilson’s letters to us, his intended readers, while pragmatic and unceremonious, give young scientists like me the pass, the permission to be indecisive, lost, sometimes petty, normal in the pursuit of Science. The book nudges the readers to get over the narcissistic tendencies that can sometimes overcome a newbie in the field, the desire to be known to humanity with the relentless pursuit of the truth.

No, Science isn’t about the end goal. It’s about waking up every morning, dedicating majority of your time to the work that you do, having that stubborn optimism that you’ll somehow figure out the problems, the tiniest gap in the knowledge, a speck when viewed in the grander scheme of things, but still important, and worth to pursue. It’s work that has to be done, and as there aren’t many people working on it, the tasks must make do with you. It’s humbling, inspiring, to be one of those few unremarkable people, working on unremarkable things to pursue an immense, daunting, and ultimately remarkable and wonderful truth.

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