Science is awesome #1

While I don’t feel like I’ve done any real hard core bitching per se, I feel like I should go ahead and do a science is awesome post, anyway. I was thinking about what I should write about and it hit me yesterday afternoon after leaving lab. Only, it’s not really a post about why science is awesome, but more about why working in science is awesome, or at least why it has been for me. Working in science has allowed me to interact with a huge variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Let me explain why this is such a big deal to me.

I grew up in a small town in the middle of Iowa. It was not what you would call a very exciting place for many reasons. One of the things that made me want to leave it was the fact that I seemed to think about things in a way that nobody else did. Everybody thought the same. Everybody was the same. Ethnic diversity was whether you were German or Norwegian. Religious diversity was whether you were Methodist or Lutheran. For the most part. There were a few exceptions.

I went to college in Boston. There, I met a more divisified group of people. There were a few embarassing moments (“Why are all of those guys wearing beanies? What’s up with that?”) but mostly it was a positive experience. I met people with different religious backgrounds, people with different socioeconomic backgrounds (I had a roommate whose parents wrote a check for the tuition and room and board at my private university every semester; I was maxxed out on student loans, grants, scholarships, you name it), but in the end, I mostly hung out with people who were pretty much the same as me.

As a technician and then as a graduate student, I have worked with people from Chile, India, Poland, Lebanon, Greece, Italy, China, Japan, the Ukraine, and Switzerland as well as people from all parts of the US and first generation Americans. I have worked with people who were Christian (Protestant, Catholic, Mormon), Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist. And because of our close proximity, we talk about our lives and those conversations include tidbits about culture, traditions, values. We talk about religion. We talk about politics. We talk about families. And at the same time that I’m learning about other people’s beliefs, traditions, cultures, I am learning more about my own. Because people ask me questions. Sometimes, I can answer the questions, sometimes I can’t.  When I can’t, I look it up.

I suppose, you might get the same exposures to different cultures just by living in a large city (which I do).  But, I’m not so sure.  The people that I work with wouldn’t even be in this country except that they are going to school here or doing a post-doc here.  Most of them have every intention to go back to their country of origin.  So this seems like a very unique environment.  And, due to the nature of our experiments, we have some downtime and it’s during that time that we talk about these things (or we discuss things while doing experiments).  I’m not sure we’d get that kind of opportunity working in an office (though maybe we could, I’ve never worked in an office, so I couldn’t say for sure).

So, working in the lab has been an educational experience in many varied ways.  Working with such a diverse group of people is one of the things I’ll miss when I leave benchwork for good.