By Joseph Provost
The people of Winterfell in the popular fantasy drama series, Game of Thrones, live by the saying “Winter is Coming.” The phrase serves to remind those living in the northern kingdom to keep vigil and prepare for hard times; they know that the road ahead is hard and long but they must persevere. Such words seem to also be appropriate advice for those in college considering any career, particularly one as demanding as a biochemistry and molecular biology degree. What is it that motivates someone to work hard to prepare themselves despite the grim outlook? Concerns about “will this degree propel me to earn a living” are amplified as our economy limps along. Without taking my massive nerd complex for “Thrones” too far, I find parallels between the hard work despite the grim outlook of those living at Winterfell and today’s undergraduates preparing for a career in the sciences. While we don’t have to worry about marauding armies or dragons, we do need to find a reason to remain in a demanding and rigorous major. Hard work will pay off even in difficult times.
Passion. It is as simple as that. In order to overcome challenges and persevere, you must have passion for what you do. If you are passionate about seeking unknown answers to difficult questions, problem solving, and scientific inquiry, then being a scientist is the right profession for you. If you want to apply your inquisitive nature to the understanding of macromolecules, cells, organisms, or systems, then a biochemistry and molecular biology major is your thing. The joy of discovery is often an overused phrase, but there is a measure of truth to the sentiment. There are few moments quite like when I’ve successfully tackled a difficult assay or getting experimental results that support my hypothesis and knowing that I’m the only one in the world who knows the answers. It is like hitting that home run or driving the long ball on the golf course… pure adrenaline and thrill. Applying that passion to understanding the biochemistry and molecular biology of macromolecules and living things is not work, nor is it a grim task. A career with such passion is a gift. It makes the hard work of preparing for winter worth all the effort.
So you have the passion. The next question is what kind of career can one get with a biochemistry and molecular biology degree and how do you get there? Earning a Bachelor’s degree is just the first step. There are many ways to harness one’s passion for science after earning a college degree. Career options include: Science writing, policy, sales, working as a technician in a teaching university or industrial biotechnology or pharmaceutical science company, working in areas including agriculture, sustainability, animal and human health, and forensic science
As you can see, there is a wide-range of career options that allows you to link your passion for science with other interests and skills. Some careers require a masters or doctorate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology or closely related fields. Having an advanced degree means that you will be able to work more independently and explore your own path to scientific discoveries. New discoveries in drugs, stem cells, human and animal health all require someone to take the lead. Of course, those interested in an allied health related career will find that a biochemistry and molecular biology major is a great preparation for their professional schooling. The ASBMB offers a number of resources for those exploring career options in biochemistry and molecular biology:
If “Winter is Coming” means that hard times are upon us, we must all be prepared. There is no need to “lose your head” (sorry about the reference to Ned Stark, it couldn’t be helped), as there are a multitude of ways to match your passion for science with a meaningful career. And, while we don’t know how long the “winter” of our economic times is going to last, now is the time to start preparing for a sustainable career.
I will address career potential in my next blog posting for The Substrate.