Recently, I read a blog post by a professor from UC Berkeley who wrote about the treacherous path scientist have to take to stay close to it. He stated: ”it is an amazing time to do science, but an incredibly difficult time to be a scientist”.
Indeed, this is true. As you start shaping your first steps towards the main door to enter a scientific community, those steps have to cross paths that often seem impassable. They are loaded with bushes full of thorns that often put you in a position to give up and change paths. Yet, once you find your self passionate about what you do, as you approach the impassable path, you get an energy that somehow makes that treacherous path seem easy to cross.
The dream for an academic life starts early. Right at the time when everyone around you thinks that your low pay compared to the workload and the place you have to live and endure for years to come, can be turned around in a matter of days. You only need to start thinking that your profession can do miracles in industry. While this is certainly true, the joy for doing science, the freedom that allows you to call your self the tiny explorer of the world, and the passion that keeps you active and fighting for the most wanted scientific projects out there, present three important criteria that keep you chasing the dream for an academic life.
Sad to say, but the dream for an academic life starts becoming a reality only when you finally get a tenure track that you have dreamt of for at least 6-8 years. Imagine what it takes to keep hoping for all these years that one day there will be a university that will want to have your scientific knowledge in their possessions. It feels like they need to find you like a needle in a haystack. But as they finally find you, they also need to measure your dimensions to see that they actually found the perfect fit. For some academic scientists like me, the journey to be chosen as the perfect fit seemed to take ages, but it was mostly tranquile and sometimes treacherous. However, for many of my colleagues it has been a long journey across many treacherous paths that often led them to destroy their dream for an academic life.
Getting a tenure track, which follows with important research projects that you need to bring to your institution, building your first lab, and publishing at the prestigious journals, definitely call for a sky-high goal. Accepting that I can be denied all of this despite the hard work, I am stilling chasing this sky-high goal, because of my love for science, and because I can continue to call myself the tiny explorer of the world.