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A Quiet Interest in Hobbies

Are scientists supposed to be well-rounded? Scientist and comedian Adam Ruben writes at Science Careers that there was a shift in expectations between applying for college and applying for graduate school. Colleges, he says, "don't just want good students. We want biomedical-engineer-Civil-War-reenactor-Olympic-gymnasts who breed turtles and founded a charity while editing the yearbook!" As for grad programs, he says some wanted well-rounded students, while others want those that were laser-focused on science.

It didn't stop there, Ruben says. "Scientists with outside interests are often regarded with suspicion in the lab; we can be seen as undedicated, unfocused, easily distracted, and so divorced from the scientific frame of mind that we'll probably end up working in — oh, the shame — industry," he says.

He then kept his second job — "telling math puns to drunk people" — to himself, and he notes that many of his colleagues actually also had hobbies. "Despite what half of the grad schools told me, tunnel vision is not a virtue, he writes, later adding that for most people, "outside interests keep us sharp. We're more productive, more creative. We're happier."

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