The First Post Is the Deepest

June 19, 2018

I have never blogged before.

 

For those who know me; I am a talker. For those who don't, I am not just any talker. I am a 100+ words-a-minute, stream of consciousness, 'how did I end up talking about my granddad's dog doing his business on the living room rug to this important person' type of talker. And I am loud. I cannot hear the volume of my own voice so my ambient conversation is at more of a bellowing, room silencing frequency. By the age of 1, I could say 36 words (as my mum kindly documented in my first birthday card) and I have not stopped since. I am comfortable talking. That is why I have continued to do so on a daily basis for 25 years. 

 

Writing on the other hand... never a strong point of mine. Ever since receiving a level 2 for spelling at age 10 (not bitter 15 years on, swear down), putting pen to paper has always been more of an effort than an enjoyment. However, I feel like the time has come for me to attempt to communicate my thoughts electronically (there is only so far my voice can project). My aim is to make this blog like a conversation with me; a random mix of everything from weird anecdotes and scenarios to discussions about science news and how to survive being an eternal student. So excuse the poor grammar, the spelling mistakes and excessive use of thesaurus.com; I am going in.

 

I thought I would use my first post to introduce myself through the responses I receive when I introduce myself in the real world. This may give you an idea about the mismatch many see between me, the scientist, and me, the person. Although I may have a 'serious' career and a 'big' personality, I strive to always combine both together with the hope of creating great conversation whilst breaking barriers in science communication. This topic drills home how you cannot let stereotypes of careers or personality traits restrict your view on what you are capable of doing.

 

I am a 25 year old trainee scientist from Liverpool who has lived in London for going on 6 years (but I am no 'posher' for it). I have been a student at University College London (UCL) since 2012; a stones- throw from the British Museum (I have still not been), Oxford street (I have been too much) and Euston station, with my beloved Virgin Pendolino service back to Lime Street. My first degree was a 4-year undergraduate-masters programme in Neuroscience with a side of musical theatre and rosé drinking, and currently I am studying the neurobiology of Alzheimer's disease. I absolutely love what I do. So much so that it doesn't feel like work.

 

So my initial introduction of myself to someone goes one of two ways depending on who I am speaking to...

 

1. Meeting somebody new outside of work

 

Reaction: Oh my god, you wouldn't think you were a scientist!

 

Okay, so some would definitely be offended by this. Some people would see it as being viewed as not clever enough to be studying a PhD or not serious enough to be working towards a career in academia. 

 

But I like to put myself in the position of those not in the scientific community. They see scientists as caricatures from the telly: geeky professors with no communication skills or personality. So in the current world, I would rather people be shocked I am not like the above than think that description is spot on.

 

In terms of changing this response, I believe the only way to go is to change the stuffy scientist image most people have. That is one of the many reasons for this blog and site. We scientists love to go out after work, practice hobbies and, you know, live a normal life outside the lab. It's not like I go home, write equations all over the walls while setting off chemical reactions and drinking a cuppa from a conical flask. Just like everyone else, home time means hours of Netflix while scrolling aimlessly through instagram before passing out on the couch. 

 

2. Meeting somebody new in the scientific community

 

Reaction: Woahh, I didn't realise this student was going to be a loud, enthusiastic scouser

 

I have an accent. A relatively strong one. I am not the first person to have an accent. But it never fails to amuse me when seeing peoples initial reaction to my voice. I love it. It is normally a look of bewilderment accompanied by them thinking the above reaction. In these situations, my voice acts like the worlds crappest stun gun with the ability to paralyse someones speech and motion for a solid 1-2 seconds.

 

The same reaction can extend to my daily fashion choices or full urban decay eye creations. You can take the girl out of Liverpool, but when you have grown up with a mum who won't go to Tesco without her purple eye shadow and pashmina on (and why shouldn't she, the Queen), whacking a bit of slap on everyday is normal. Now, my point is not about being 'judged' for speaking or dressing scouse because I genuinely never feel like I am. I just don't think my traits are viewed as being typical of a PhD candidate.

 

And this is where my issue lies.

 

My personality and the scientific world seem so disconnected on paper but they work really well together. And this could be the case for others too, in science and in other jobs. Doing a careers test is all well and good, but you can't let the answers inputted to an online script or someones opinion of which 'box' you fit in dictate what you do with your life. I do not have any problems with the people who react to my introductions like above, but I do have an issue with the stereotypes associated with being a scientist and being a scouser.

 

These stereotypes contribute towards the serious issue with recruiting young people from different backgrounds into science. At school in Liverpool, I remember so many of my class mates being amazing at science but not a single one has decided to pursue a scientific career. It is not really considered an option. For those who are outgoing, it seems too reserved. For those who enjoy it, it feels like they would not fit in. Even I didn't view it as an option until half way through my undergraduate degree and I still had doubts thrown my way.

 

"You couldn't just sit in a lab all day, that is so boring. You're not a geek"

 

"Working on one thing for your whole life and finding nothing is not something that would fit with you"

 

"Your personality is too much for science"

 

Well, my personality and I are very much in science, and I feel very fortunate to have ended up doing medical research. Hopefully, sharing this passion in my own way will show others that you can put your personal stamp on any career you want. And potentially, a few more people might feel inspired to put on a lab coat.

 

 

 

First blog post written .... that wasn't too bad going. I changed the topic a good three times as I was writing which would have all flooded into a single conversation so maybe writing is a good way to organise my chaotic head. 

 

There will be more posts to come on this topic, my area of science, attempting to do independent research and many more. As I have mentioned, I love a chat so if there are any questions or comments, fire away!

 

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J.R.

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