Spectrum.

NPR had a story on the other day about researchers who found a much higher prevalence of autism when they looked at every kid in a town in South Korea. One of the big signs was “social awkwardness”, another I imagine was obsessiveness and a lack of interest in anything but a narrow band of subjects they were interested in. Hearing this story made me think of a lot of scientists. I’d wager that if the autism spectrum were extended just a little bit, it would catch a lot of Ph.D.’s of the world. I could be totally wrong too, but it does seem to take an obsessive focused mind to be in science, though that does seem to be changing. Now-a-days, Ph.D.’s seem expected to be all things at all times…computer programmers, math whizzes, experts in their fields, experts in other fields, knowing how to integrate different fields, create new ones, teach, write well, communicate to the broader public and just generally be an intellectual bad ass. I’m not a great scientist (yet?), but I’m trying to have better habits in work and in life…but the expectations of Ph.D.’s in 2011 seem outsized somehow. I’ve blamed myself for not measuring up for years…and I can confirm it’s no way to live or have a successful career- in any field (it’s very de-motivating and soul-crushing). Maybe what I think the expectations are is unrealistic. Now I’m attempting to do the best I can- and do what I can…and give myself some credit for what I DO accomplish.

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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

One thought on “Spectrum.”

  1. Your commentary on the expectations of Ph.D's to be jack-of-all-trades reminds me of what my husband has said about his own career. He's in video production. There was a time when it was incredibly difficult for him to find a satisfying job because everyone wanted to find someone who could do it all — write, direct, edit, etc. From his point of view, the tides are beginning to change. People are beginning to value specialists (at least in his field) once again, which brings less stress and higher rewards for people such as my husband. Somewhat unrelated, but I thought you'd maybe find it somewhat interesting as well.

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