where can science take you? a look into the real world

Having been working in the science field and being taught science for so long now, I have sort of lost all concept of what people assume about science majors. Maybe people think we all want to become doctors, or maybe they think we all wear thick glasses and sit in front of microscopes wearing lab coats, and not doing much else. Or, maybe they think we all want to pour things into test tubes and watch it all go Poof! No matter what people think, there is always a sort of mystery to what exactly you can do with a degree in the hard sciences. My friend and roommate from college, Kevin Fuller, is here with me today to shed some light on what it’s like to graduate from college with a biology degree and enter the workforce as a freshly trained scientist. He was an outstanding student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has been out of college for over a year. Let’s see what he has to say.

Kevin, let’s start with a little bit about yourself. How old are you, what year did you graduate college, what was your major, and what are you doing now?

I am 24 years old, I graduated in May of 2009 as a Biology major with a minor in Microbiology. Right now I am working in a lab for a company that sterilizes medical devices for various clients. In the lab I perform different microbiological tests to ensure sterility of the products that we process.

As I understand it, you are their only microbiologist and by no means spend all of your days in a lab. There is some travel involved, yes?

Yea, that’s correct. I travel to the facilities of clients, I get to meet the clients that we are in contact with. Some of the clean rooms I go to manufacture needles to extract bone marrow, another place I go to in Cambridge manufactures probes that neurosurgeons use to measure blood pressure in the brain. I get to meet with people from these companies and I get to learn about what they do as well.

That sounds pretty great. You graduated very recently and you seem to have a job that not only involves pretty serious responsibilities, but a lot of different interactions with people from similar fields but with different purposes. It sounds like you are not confined to a cubicle, doing the same thing day in and day out, but are experiencing fields of science far and wide. Tell us about that.

I get to meet with all different clients, and it plants ideas in my head about what I may or may not want to do in the future. It’s great to meet people and network, a web of possibilities is opening up for future jobs and I’m realizing how vast the possibilities are with a degree in science. Once you get a job after graduating college, you don’t just keep the tools you learned in college and stop learning. You’re always learning new things from everything you do, every different client or procedure you have to run. I’m not confined to a cubicle doing data entry or copying memos.

How did you get into science in the first place, what made you choose Biology as your major?

I’ve just always been interested in science from a young age, watching Discovery Channel. In school I was always highly interested in my science classes and did well in them. It kind of just all led to me choosing Biology. Being curious about things and wanting to find the answers to different questions I had, that’s what science is all about. Trying to figure out ways to answer big questions and small questions.

Can you pinpoint any defining moments in your college career where you knew that choosing science was the right thing for you?

Doing hands on work in labs was probably the most defining thing that led me to choose science. I obviously enjoyed lecture courses as one thing, but taking a variety of lab courses solidified my goal of doing hands on work as a career.

What advice do you have for students either in college or entering college and considering a degree in the sciences, be it biology, microbiology, physics, psychology, etc?

Stick with what you’re doing. There are going to be high and low points, and don’t get frustrated when you’re in the low points. For me there were lots of times where I didn’t think I’d be able to finish my degree, but I did because I stuck it out and gave the time and effort it required. Not everyone gets straight A’s, and not doing well in a few courses shouldn’t make you change your major to something “easier”. If you like what you’re doing, stick with it. There will always be new projects in science, it’s a never ending cycle of things being discovered all the time and science jobs have good job security compared other fields. For example, real estate isn’t doing so well right now.

Thanks for your time, Kevin. Let’s wrap this up with some scientists that you personally admire, some scientists you look up to.

Stephen Hawking, he’s in physics, which isn’t my field, is still interesting. He says things in a way that someone from any other field can understand. Another scientist that I look up to is Peter Higgs, a theoretical Physicist who first explained the Higgs Boson, which is part of the standard model of physics.

So it seems like your favorite scientists aren’t even in the field of biology per se, which is just at testament to how much exposure you got to science in your time at college and the array of things you can understand with a degree in one of these subjects.

Sounds sweet. Thanks for having me.

Alex Mojcher

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