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Do my aspirations fit a science career?

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Do my aspirations fit a science career?

Postby Nate J » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:36 pm

Quick background: I'm an accounting student with a few semesters left to graduate but I've recently found my passion is in science and medicine. I considered med school and physician assistant school but found it wouldn't be worth it if I can't be directly involved in the latest science.

My vision of what I want to do (and will do regardless of job title) is make sense of existing science and "connect dots" so to speak, rather than focus on something very specific for the rest of my life without seeing the bigger picture. There are several disorders for instance that I and others think share a common link, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, PTSD, IBS, etc. If I were to pursue a career in science could I devote my time to looking at the bigger picture as I'd wish to or would I be restricted to specifics for long periods of time?

Is pursuing science something I should do if I am profoundly interested in the latest research on oxidation, immunity, and cytokines in these disorders and would like to make it the focus of my attention for years to come? Or should it just be a hobby?
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Re: Do my aspirations fit a science career?

Postby P.C. » Wed Nov 07, 2012 7:32 am

It is not clear at all that you are anywhere near prepared for a science career, with an accounting degree. Have you tried taking the GRE tests and the biology, chemistry, biochemistry specialized tests?
If you do not score reasonably well, I would say you would need almost to get an additional BS degree more closely related to science.
Have you discussed your aspirations with a real live scientist and professors in your current institution?
As an accountant you could start to earn a reasonable living fairly soon, accumulate wealth and retirement funds much much earlier than you would as a graduate student. I would say consider doing it as a hobby.
A friend of mine my age made his fortune and then a 50 pursued a degree in astronomy (although he did have a quantitative background in physics and the semiconductor industry).
"You know I'm temperamental." "Yeah, 95% temper, 5% mental." - "Curly" & Moe Horwitz
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Re: Do my aspirations fit a science career?

Postby A.S. » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:59 am

With the caveat that I know *absolutely nothing* about such things, I wonder if with an accounting degree you might able to look at jobs in science funding around the types of things are looking at? I know a few people in funding agencies and who are editors of popular science magazines who have said to me how much they like the "big picture" nature of their work, as compared to what they did as research scientists. I suggested funding because it seems like accounting would match with that. My friends who work in this area are PhD's, but I'm not sure that's required (and it's probably not at all! they got there after a lot of distress about career path, etc.) and you might do better to move straight into something like that. Grad school does make you concentrate on a very specific thing.

To find out more, I might suggest doing some informational interviews with people at places like NIH or charities devoted to the diseases you are interested in. And to get the other picture, do the same with grad students/profs/industry scientists if you can.
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Re: Do my aspirations fit a science career?

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:12 am

You say you have "a few semesters" left before you finish your degree. Use this time to load up on as many science courses as you can. You might even consider changing to a science major with an accounting minor.

In order to be a "big picture" person you first need to be able to understand the details. Consider this, for example. If you look at Noble Prize winners, the winners in chemistry and physiology are often older and more experienced. It simply takes a lot of time to gather the varied data they use to formulate their "ground breaking" ideas.

You also might be a good candidate for a science policy position. These guys are generally about as "big picture" as you can get. They determine, for example, where our research money is (theoretically) best spent. I believe you can also find internships in the area to help prepare you for that type of career.
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Re: Do my aspirations fit a science career?

Postby Nate J » Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:53 pm

Thanks for the responses to all of you, I appreciate it. I feel the kind of feedback I'm getting here is a lot more candid and pertinent than anywhere else I've asked these kind of things.

To P.C.: I haven't taken the GRE and have only taken environmental science and Anatomy and Physiology at community college. Both were very easy but probably due to it being at CC. I haven't talked to any professor or scientist about my aspirations, with the exception of my uncle who works at a high level in NASA and has seemed to encourage me along this path somewhat.

I like the idea of a science policy position as some of you suggest, since I also enjoy political theory/policy. Would the biggest places for this be somewhere like the AAAS or NIH?

Here's another idea I've been kicking around. If I were to pursue science as a hobby then I imagine I couldn't get published in any journal, but in order to get a potential idea recognized if I were to find one could I network as a non-scientist with relevant scientists in the field and pass the information on for them to follow up with a study, for instance? I guess that would be easier if I were in a policy position?

I've only been looking at the science out there on the web for the last 8 months or so after being prompted by increasing health problems. I was thrilled once I could put a name to it (FMS/CFS, subclinical hypothyroid) knowing there had to be a scientific explanation as to the pathophysiology. Surely I don't have the medical background to make complete sense of every study but almost every day I've contemplated a new link or connection, find if it's relevant through pubmed or otherwise, add each annotated piece to a growing document, then build my own mini hypotheses and look deeper at the ones given the most credence. I'm finding that a lot of newer studies (many published just months ago) are confirming the suspicions and connections I've figured, and I've felt throughout the whole process exciting to be aware of the cutting edge of a small part of medical science (but which I also feel can fit a larger picture).

Regarding retirement as P.C. mentioned, this was an instrumental part of the idea I'm kicking around because I've "run the numbers" and found it feasible to retire (or rather, be financially independent) in my mid/late 30's IF I were moderately successful at work, didn't start a family which I don't want, lived exceptionally frugal as I do now, and invest wisely with moderate risk. Then I theoretically have the rest of my life to science? Ok I can hear the laughter across the net sounding overly idealistic here lol.
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Re: Do my aspirations fit a science career?

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Nov 07, 2012 2:41 pm

Some fields are more amenable to amateur "hobby" scientists than others. In astronomy, for example, I believe most comets are discovered by 'hard-core' amateurs. And in entymology, one of my parent's family friends (alas, now deceased) discovered four new species of butterfly.

In both of these fields the amateurs are interested in the subject, have a certain minimum knowledge level (but are not necessarily experts), and are willing to do the tedious foot-work. Also, in both fields the amateur relies on the experts to validate/analyze/etc. their discoveries. (My folk's friend, for example, had a relationship with an academic entymologist who did the work to confirm that his discoveries were truly new species.)

Whatever field you get involved in, though, you're going to need to have a minimum level of expertise in order to even talk to the pros. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Even in policy positions, you generally don't worry about specific studies so much as about global trends and directions.
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Re: Do my aspirations fit a science career?

Postby Nate J » Wed Nov 07, 2012 3:05 pm

Rich Lemert wrote: Whatever field you get involved in, though, you're going to need to have a minimum level of expertise in order to even talk to the pros. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Even in policy positions, you generally don't worry about specific studies so much as about global trends and directions.


Thanks for the response. Regarding this bit, what if I had a masters degree in a relevant subject like biochemistry and had work experience in industry? I know work in industry probably wouldn't fulfill my own curiosity, but if I pursued that after a career in accounting for instance, is it likely I then could network with relevant scientists after I have enough experience?

Or would I best be suited to not worry about chasing someone directly if I thought I found something but be content with writing some blog in hopes someone important stumbles on it?
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