Scientific Career Renewal by Peter Fiske

Peter Fiske’s article “Scientific Career Renewal” talks about the benefits of dipping into new areas. Doing so will generate new ideas (in the overused cliche, think outside the box), and renew your enthusiasm, or if you prefer, passion, for your career, or for research, or for science. This article startled me because I had recently come across the same idea twice before.

Iain received the biography of Grace Hopper as a graduation gift from his professors. In her first career as a math professor, the young Dr. Hopper audited many classes at her university, in many fields. Chemistry, anthropology, literature, biology, everything. These were useful later in life when her career took an unexpected turn into the creation of the new field of computer science. Chemistry helped her understand the electronics of the Mark I, for example. Of course when she was auditing these classes she had no idea that any of them would ever be useful. She just wanted to learn things.

I forget the other place I read this notion, it was an article or a blog about the computer language Ruby, or maybe Rails. (Iain’s been learning about these.) The author mentioned how he liked to learn something new, often a new computer language, over his winter breaks when he was in college, and how this led to the skill of being able to pick up new languages very quickly, among other things.

I often feel a little guilty about how much time I spend learning about bicycling, bicycle advocacy, politics of cycling, exercise, the politics of exercise, and so on. These topics are just a hobby, they aren’t something that furthers my goals for either work or family. They happen to be what I’m interested in and I couldn’t stop thinking and learning about them if I tried. These 3 examples validate the time I spend on these. Who knows, maybe they will feed into my career, and who cares if it is my actual career or if it remains a hobby. Perhaps my more important accomplishments in my life will be through my hobby rather than career.

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