Coffee, commuting and creating something new

Having not long started a new job and realising a worrying amount of my time is spent thinking about coffee, an overloaded email inbox and the 06.37 train, it’s been a bit difficult to keep track of a blog. So I’ve decided that it’s probably better to spend my time on the morning commute writing about something useful on the train rather than sleeping unattractively against the window and end up dribbling down another commuter’s shirt.

Working in a job where it’s more cells of an excel spreadsheet that cells in a Petri dish, it’s easy to lose contact with the scientific world. Unless you’ve got a phone filled with apps vibrating every time a new discovery is made, or magazine subscriptions straight through your door, the amount of science in your daily life that becomes as important as catching that early morning train tends to deplete.

Regardless of career, I always hope to continue writing about whatever interests me – whether that’s science, skiing, surfing or just the post- student life.

So why write about science? Well to begin with, I ruled out falling into the PhD trap – sensible academic progression for some but for me, a trap full of endless late nights and grant proposals, cushioned by the thought of an extended student life. Probably because I don’t think I ever fully grasped lab work. The careful procedures undertaken, repeated and scrutinised which cleverly piece together even the smallest aspect of the scientific world is fascinating however, I think when it comes down to it, I’m just not sure I ever had the patience. Consequently, I have an enormous amount of respect for people who do. Being the one who usually spilt that 0.00001ml drop of liquid which probably cost the same amount as a small car, I think I’d generally rather leave the finer experiment details to others as opposed to contaminating an area with bacteria and clumsy hands. No matter how many times I repeated an experiment to the upmost precision, I guess I couldn’t stand never getting ‘perfect’ results. Which is clearly the whole point and what others thrive on. I always found with writing that bit more lenient. It’s more subjective. People form their own views and ideas around an article around that so there’s always the possibility of making it just that bit better, whether that’s in the clarity of what you’re writing or just adding an alternative opinion. I always felt I wanted to be involved with something which would grab people’s attention, even people who didn’t have the faintest idea what it might be about. Shoving it into people’s faces, right at the forefront of scientific research.

Right now, is science journalism at it’s best? Probably not – at the moment you still rarely hear people discussing current science unless it bursts on our tv screens within the first five minutes of the news at 10. New social media groups such as ‘I fucking love science’, a comical Facebook page-turned internet science sensation, have hit the nail on the head. Targeting the biggest audience possible and making science approachable for everyone. And they do so by wiping out statistics and spreadsheets and replacing it with comic strips and quotes. Scientific jargon is what creates a barrier between great scientists and their accomplishments, and the rest of the world. So that’s what I’m trying to do- scrap the jargon and start making science understandable. And to try to create something- whether it be a magazine, book, webpage, app you might use for five minutes on the loo, or a toy that explains the carbon cycle to a five year old, it’s all about making science that little bit easier.

I also reckon I’m one of a few who absolutely loved their degree. All around us, every day, there’s pressure to go into something directly degree-related. As if the first job on your doorstep after leaving university will be your dream job. And if it’s not, queue every neighbour asking you about what you’re doing now you’ve left uni and appearing apologetic that you’ve ‘wasted’ an exceedingly large amount of money to end up working behind the tills in Tesco’s. And waiting eagerly to hear the follow up answer; your next plans which involve that well-paid internship at a major law firm with minimal tea-making and guaranteed to land you a fantastic job after three weeks. So although I’m continuing to write because I enjoy it, but it’s also nice to be able to say to people ‘yeah, I’m still involved with science’. Without a doubt, they’ll be a mixture of great and awful jobs before I get to the one that happens to slot in perfectly with the degree.

So I guess even though I’m working in something pretty unrelated, what at first glance seems like an awful commute, actually makes time for something very related indeed.