I just finished reading the “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren, a Geochemist and Geobiologist at the University of Oslo, Norway. The title of the book is sort of misleading because in the book, she not only shares her winding journey and many struggles as a female academic scientist.
The book is about all academic scientists
The book is about Hope and her partner-in-science Bill Hagopian who contributes equally to all of her science endeavours. Their path might be bumpier than others, but it is essentially the story of all academic scientists. It is about 20+ years of overcoming hardships head-on and survived through it, coming out all the stronger in the end.
In her book, Hope summed up what working in science means:
“Science is work, nothing more and nothing less. And so we will keep working as another day dawns and this week turns into next week, and then this month becomes next month. I can feel the warmth of the same brilliant sun that shines above the forest and onto the green world, but in my heart I know that I am not a plant. I am more like an ant, driven to find and carry single dead needles, one after the other, all the way across the forest and then add them one by one to a pile so massive that I can only fully imagine one small corner of it.”
Scientist as an ant
As an ant biologist, I share her sentiment to equate a scientist’s lifetime work to a worker ant.
“As a scientist I am indeed only an ant, insufficient and anonymous, but I am stronger than I look and part of something that is much bigger than I am. Together we are building something that will fill our grandchildren’s grandchildren with awe, and while building we consult daily the crude instructions provided by our grandfathers’ grandfathers. As a tiny, living part of the scientific collective, I’ve sat alone countless nights in the dark, burning my metal candle and watching a foreign world with an aching heart. Like anyone else who harbors precious secrets wrought from years of searching, I have longed for someone to tell.”
If you are planning a career as an academic scientist, you will relate to this book. There are no secret ways of how to do it. Everyone journey is unique, but one can gain some inspirations from Hope and Bill’s journey.