Saturday, March 13, 2010

Just Do It

I finally realized last night that I had been tricking myself into believing (like several others in the field) something that is actually not completely true. Now that I am at the cross roads, embarking on a 5 year commitment to science, a commitment to a lab and its work, I need to pause and call myself a hypocrite.

Ask the life science students why they do what they do. 95% of them will tell you something like "I want to cure cancer", "I think I know what to do about AIDS", "I want to solve world hunger" (some people do genuinely want to do that actually, its not fair to say they don't). I realized that most of us have this need to know that in this life that we have, we will leave behind a mark that will be recognized for generations to come. So why not make the lives of a few people better while working towards that. Set a lofty goal.

I frankly don't know how my dissertation project is going to help solve anything for anybody. All it does is satiate my hunger in the field of neuroscience and my curiosity about neurogenesis and neuroplasticity (so proud of myself to be able to use these words!). But that's probably as far as I go. If I was that keen on helping solve the mystery of some neuropsychiatric disorder, why didn't I join a lab working on Parkinson's or Alzheimer's? Or even a lab working on drug addiction relapse or depression therapies? To be honest, sometimes the work in those labs also seem to go tangential to what they claim to be doing. They always lose sight of the bigger picture (eg.: develop more effective anti-depressants that work long-term but have effects immediately). It takes most of them 20-30 mins to figure out why this amazing knock out mouse is going to help solve the problem. Why is that?

Here's a not-so-inconvenient truth.

We tell everybody that the ultimate goal is to cure XYZ with this research. Because the money to fund your lab is scarce. And NIH wants to know that they are making a good investment by funding you. They need to know you are doing something related to "health". Duh. Its the National Institutes of Health.

But just admit it once. The reason you do what you do is not because you wanna so badly cure XYZ.

You are doing it because that's what makes you the happiest and there is nothing else you'd rather be doing in this world other than looking at brain slices under the microscope to learn something new each day.

And sometimes, that is a perfectly valid justification for doing what you do :) :) :)


soleil said...


simplime said...

it absolutely is a valid reason :):) You'll see as u go down this path that many things dont turn out the way we plan them.

But thats the way of fact the beauty of it :) And about making a mark, even if its a tiny dot, it still is a mark, no matter what you work is a tiny piece of the puzzle that leads to the bigger picture. remember that always!!

Shubhada said...

Whatever simplime says is simpli :) correct. No one can impact research on his/her own. It is an overall picture obtained after putting pieces of research done by many researchers together. Many times public fame/honor, credit etc will go to the last crucial piece which makes the picture clear. But that does not mean that other pieces are not important! They are equally important. Without them, the last piece will not have any meaning. So go on and try to make a tiny dot or whatever you can in the area you will be working in.

Clueless said...

If you're happy doing what you do, chances are that whether or not you mean to, you will leave behind a mark for the future generation, that you will influence a few lives along the way. And conversely, if you don't like what you're doing, even if you're doing the most noble job on earth, you won't be able to touch any lives because you yourself have so little love for it. So, yeah. Happiness always comes first! :)