Joe Edgecomb, Guest Writer
I was almost shocked when the professor told us to pack up 15 minutes early. The program was a six week course in radiochemistry, an intense one to say the least. Daily lectures and labs were broken up only by the ten minute bike ride home for lunch. Every week, the program flew in a professor from a different university to the lab, each prepared with lecture notes and a dreaded exam. After a couple of confused looks shared between my new classmates and myself, I turned my attention back to the front. We put up our notes and textbook and, in his own words, the professor gave us some knowledge “for free.” The freebies were not on the test, just little tidbits he had come across throughout his career. They could be anything, from designing radiation-powered batteries for microscopic cameras, to how airports scan for radioactive material. After three hours of charts and figures, equations and theories, we all just sat around for a fleeting moment, enjoying the ingenuity of great scientists and wondering what sort of problems we might solve. These discussions were free, not just for the lack of an exam question but for the feeling I got when I realized what I could do as a chemist- I was hooked.
When I came to Saint Martin’s I wanted to be a doctor. For a time I moved onto engineering before starting chemistry. As a result, I’ve studied math, chemistry, physics, some engineering, and even a bit of biology. While it may be good to say “find what interests you and study it,” in my experience, that didn’t really narrow it down. The difference for me between engineering or medicine and chemistry was the impact of opportunities that didn’t build my resume or improve my grade point average. Bits of chemistry were intrinsically fascinating, that I still think about years later. My advice for anyone who doesn’t know what career to pursue is to continue searching until you find the freebies. Maybe they come at an accounting seminar by a big name certified public accountant, in an article on a rare disease with an ingenious cure, or even hidden in a poem from a local artist. Eventually you will find something that will keep you up at night, wondering “how did someone ever come up with that?” Chase that feeling, and you’ll find the right career for you.