It’s important to have dreams. Not just tasks, which we actively work to achieve. Not hopes, those wishes we send into the wind that may, or may not, be accomplished ‘one day’. Not even resolutions, those tasks we set for ourselves at least once a year in order to improve our lot in life.
No, dreams, those far off, seeming impossible for the moment (but we WILL achieve one day) goals that help to motivate and inspire us as we move through life. I shared a rather impressive sounding dream yesterday, one from Mrs. Accountability of Out of Debt Again, a dream of owning a yarn shop. It’s a bit of an odd dream, as even Mrs. Accountability admits, but you can tell as you read through her post and can see the passion in her writing that this goal is one she is determined about and focused on.
That sort of passion is the type of thing I think we all could use a little of in our lives, so I thought I would take a page from Mrs. Accountability’s play book and share my own dream job:
I Want to Be a Professor
I know, it probably doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that will convince anyone that I am anything but a huge nerd at heart. (Not that I would try; as Sondra is fond of pointing out, I don’t exactly come off as anything BUT a huge nerd, so why fight the inevitable?)
There’s just something about teaching that I have to admit I enjoy. One of the more enjoyable parts of being a graduate student is that I have the opportunity to teach undergraduates in the lab courses and recitations (essentially, a sort of study/review session the students go to once a week to try to make sure they are actually learning the material). Being able to help the students understand the material is a great feeling, as is seeing the look in their eyes as things finally click.
There’s also the opportunity to do research, not because it might lead to a new drug or other product (although, do not misunderstand me, such research is very important), but simply to advance human knowledge, and build up such knowledge that might, one day in the distant future, lead to medical or other scientific advances. Being able to add to the sum total of human knowledge is a pretty impressive thing to add to the old resume, and it’s one of the reasons why I first got into the physical sciences.
Now, you might assume from all of this that I’m heading as quickly as possible towards being a professor. That’s not quite the case. While I do want to become a professor at some point in my career, there is the issue that work in academia tends to pay significantly less than work in the business sphere for biochemists such as myself. Heck, I know this from personal experience, having earned nearly as much in entry level industrial positions with a Bachelor’s degree as I could expect to earn in the academic field with a Ph.D.
So, my plan actually looks a little more like this: I intend to graduate this year (hopefully in the spring, although given how much trouble I’ve been having getting my research to turn out properly, I’d be willing to settle for the end of summer). I will start an industrial job, probably in the pharmaceutical area which is where many of us biochemists end up, soon after graduation (the job hunt is already a foot), marrying my dear Sondra around the same time, and before long we will add a child or two to our little family.
Where does becoming a professor fit in, then? That’s more for the second act of my life (or perhaps third, if I’m already on act two with going back for a Masters’ Degree); my dream is to work for a decade or two, helping to support my family and allowing Sondra to be the stay a home mother (and work from home artist) that she wants, before I continue my education, get a Ph.D., and do what I can to become a tenured professor. It’s not impossible; it’s actually semi-common in the biochemistry field to come back to academia after a stint in industry, although I will have to earn a Ph.D. at some point to even hope to become a full professor. It will mean gearing up for a second career when many people are settling into the same rut, trying to push through another decade or two before they can call it a lifetime and retire.
But here’s the thing: I WANT to keep working. I can’t foresee a time when I’m ready to spend all day fishing or lounging at a retirement home or traveling the world. (Although, if I do want to do that last one, there are academic opportunities all around the world I might be able to take advantage of, as well as an ever increasing ability to work with other scientists, even those outside of the United States. To say nothing of a good old-fashioned hiatus or two. Plus, there are advantages to becoming a professor emeritus after a successful career.)
Being a professor is just something I’ve wanted to do, for at least the last decade now. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to put it into action.