Why I am a Scientist

Now that I and all of my friends are pretending to be adults, we like to ask each other, usually ironically, "What did you want to be when you grew up?" And here is my short-list, in a somewhat chronologic order: astronaut, film director, medical doctor, biologist.

Usually, only answers like "a whale" get the response of "why did you want to be that?" Maybe it's nostalgia for our five-year-old mindset that drives our need to understand these nonsensical answers. Or maybe it's just for a laugh. But I think all career dreams, cetacean or otherwise, deserve a "why" answer. So here is mine.

Science and nature have always intrigued me; I have been hiking, reading, exploring, discovering ever since I can remember. I have always wanted to know more. Not just how something works, but why it works. What I loved about astronauts and doctors was that they are so much more than just explorers. They discover and investigate problems that puzzle humanity, and their findings stand to benefit us all. Turns out that what attracted me most about those careers is what all scientists do, and not the rocket ship-riding or heart-transplanting tools of the respective trades.

I followed that passion for discovery through college and into graduate school, where I now spend most of my time researching the impacts of humans on the environment. While my tools are different, lizards instead of spacesuits, I still investigate problems that don't yet have answers. And I love it. I am also figuring out ways to apply my scientific training to other issues, such as how to make the work I and other scientists do more useful for policymakers and land managers.

Apart from my brief, imaginary foray into the less-glamourous side of Hollywood, I have always been, it seems, destined for science. Now that I'm "here", actually conducting research, producing data, and solving problems, the reasons why science has always appealed to me, I hope younger Andrew would be proud. But obviously, I still want to ride in a rocket ship.