At Science Careers, author Adam Ruben chronicles his life as a scientist, from preschool to postdoc. Growing up, Ruben says, he and other young scientists "thought we would rule the world. Then we got actual science careers." Now, while his grant says his purpose is to cure malaria, Ruben says his actual job "is to move small amounts of liquid from one place to another. That's it." To examine how he — and many other young investigators like him — eventually found that science careers are not exactly what they seemed at the start of his training, Ruben takes readers back to preschool, where a budding scientist might think:
In elementary school, a student interested in science might become swept up in visions of researchers in crisp white lab coats, toiling away in their labs with gadgets, exploding things at their discretion:
However, once that researcher has reached grad school and later becomes a postdoc, Ruben says hos or her mindset has likely changed:
Overall, while some of it may at times seem mundane — "I put little stickers on several hundred vials this morning. … Diseases cured: zero. Vials with little stickers on them: several hundred" — Ruben says that most of a scientists' work is meaningful. He often thinks of what his preschool self would say about his career. "Remind that preschooler that you're now a big, bad scientist — dream accomplished — and even if your day-to-day work isn't as glamorous as you'd hoped, you still have something to feel satisfied about," he says.