So, this is interesting. For the first time in roughly four years, I am no longer directly engaged in the enterprise of scientific research. There are two things that immediately spring to mind:
1. It’s quite the shock to leave an activity that you were doing on a daily basis for four years and then abruptly stare never doing it again right in the face.
2. On the other hand, it’s also shocking how quickly you adjust. The laboratory already seems pretty distant, and I’ve only been gone a week. It’s like those people who leave/graduate and get a job outside of a research lab who say they’ll “always be available to run experiments if you need help, because they’ll really miss research.” Two weeks later, if you remind them that they worked in a laboratory they’ll give you a blank look and you can actually see them trying to recall when that happened.
The biggest immediate change in my relation to science is, ironically, having a lot more time to carefully review those aspects of it that I find interesting. I mean, I’m still working on finishing up my thesis, it’s not like that process ever ends on time, but not being in the laboratory running experiments, keeping up with research question-specific technical information, classes related to one’s degree, etc. frees up an incredible amount of time to engage with science in a different way.
For example, I’m really looking forward to reading some reports that the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition sent along in their latest newletter. These reports, Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide (International Council on Human Rights) and Claiming the Millennium Development Goals: A Human Rights Approach (Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights) are of great personal interest, but I’d have never even dreamed of having time to read these with care and critical attention while in the midst of my graduate research. That in of itself points out one of my worries regarding the scientific community, but that’s a topic for another day.