This week’s 20SB prompt is, conveniently, a topic that’s already been on my mind a lot lately. It seems like once you enter grad school, the one question everyone you meet is guaranteed to ask you is what you want to do after you have your degree. I was initially a little bit put off by getting asked that, but I’ve come to realize that it’s never too late to start planning ahead, and that grad school really is a good time to explore the different career paths that are available after a PhD. For me, at least, thinking of the honest answer to that question has come with a lot of self-reflection.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. In Mrs. Poulton’s 6th grade language arts class, our end of the year project was to pretend like we were having a 20 year class reunion; we had to give a presentation about what our lives would be like, including our careers. I came to the “reunion” as a teacher- wearing a very bright pink suit, as I remember. 😉 At that time, I specifically wanted to be an English teacher.
My aunt is a teacher in a school district nearby to where I went to grade school. In middle school, I went with her to work for “Bring Your Child to Work Day,” because my mom does not work and teaching 5th grade was closer to what I wanted to do than my dad’s job was. Every year, she let me teach a math lesson to her students, which I thought was especially cool as a 6th grader! (She also had a really fantastic box of stickers in her classroom, which was a nice bonus!)
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I became interested in science and began thinking of that as a career instead of teaching (but that’s a story for another day).
Now, I’ve almost come full circle. I’ve realized that science and teaching are not mutually exclusive and I am starting to imagine a career path that incorporates both research and education/outreach. I’m hoping to get teaching experience here by doing extra TAing and also by volunteering with Pitt Science Outreach and with a youth writing initiative I’ve already been involved with since the fall. Eventually, I hope I’ll think of a unique way to incorporate the two and come up with a career that fits me best.