vrijdag 30 april 2010

Digestion of the 2010 Postdoc Retreat

If I would have to summarize the past Postdoc-retreat in Heeze in one word, it would be: ENERGIZING! Talking to so many young scientists with similar questions as I had, and listening to people who are happy about their career was very inspiring!When I signed up for the retreat, I wasn’t sure about staying in science, and if not, what I would do else. In the past few months I spent time thinking about this, talking to people, looking into organizations that I would be interested in to work for etc. Just before the retreat, I had made up my mind: after this post-doc I would do something else. I would be either a teacher, or a science communicator, or both. But I wanted to keep my mind open for other possibilities during the retreat.

We listened to two inspiring established scientists, and although I love science, the thing that became most clear to me was: I am not like them... The enormous drive, passion for research, the will to dive very deep into one subject… I don’t really have that, and never had. I am not a bad researcher, but just not a REAL scientist. So for me it would not be the right way to pursue a career in science.

We heard the story from a scientist who started his own spin-off based on his results, and also from someone who helps other researchers with translating their results into products via  a technology-transfer office. I like to translate science in something with a practical purpose but I didn’t make any major discoveries that could be used. But helping other scientists with this might be an interesting way to go, although my commercial skills are not very developed...

Also a few major players in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry were invited. What came up as a PRO of working for a company was the team-spirit, something the speakers had missed during their scientific career. I also sometimes miss the contact with other during working alone on my project. But I don’t really want to do labwork anymore and the strong competition in industry is something I probably won’t like. So although I think a career in industry would be a nice one, I don’t think this is the right way to go for me.

And then, on the last day, the topic was ‘Your impact on society’. Together with people from science communication and industry, we discussed about our role as scientists in educating the public. About how to prevent media-catastrophes like the controversy on the HPV-vaccine and the doom-stories about the Mexican flu. About how to get schoolchildren in contact with science. About how to change the general idea about science…  During those discussions I forgot about my tiredness after 3 days of retreat and had to stop myself from taking the microphone every 5 minutes. It was clear: this is what I want to do! I want to tell others about science, to make the public aware about how great science is, to stop the popular media from writing nonsense about science, to make schoolchildren get in contact with science at an early age, to teach science, to write about science…. But I don’t have to do the science myself any more.

So this will be my next career step! Although it might sound clear, it is not simple to translate my desires into a paid job. Science communication is mainly being done on the side by scientists themselves (which is also what I’m doing now). So to really make this next career step I can’t just react on a job application, no, I will have to use my network to explore this option and I am aware that this may take some time. Hopefully this will lead to a job at one point…  So during the retreat I strengthened the idea that I already had for my future career, made it clearer and also expanded my network in the field of science communication. PCDI: Thanks for that! And you: Stay tuned, I will keep you updated via this blog about the progress I’m making.

- This blog was first posted on PCDI's community blog -