When I was eleven, I told my dad that I was going to be an engineer and go to MIT because that is where engineers are. (We had a family friend who had gone to MIT years before and talked about what engineers were and what they did a lot, and I wanted to do that, too.)
My Dad smiled and said, “Ok.”
I wanted to be an engineer because it seemed liked they played, and I loved to play and explore.
They do, and I am extremely proud to get to play and explore with a team of people who are working incredibly hard to solve important problems. I love what I do. But I don’t always feel like I fit.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been successful, and I work with wonderful people. There are incredible people in the field. But, for every incredible person in the field, there is someone who questions my place, and it is very hard not to question it myself in spite of my success.
We need to change what it means to be a scientist and we need to understand that we all belong. Ultimately, it is about observing, understanding, and, at times, helping in the universe, and that is something we all can do and need to do. Being a scientist, in a small or large way, is about being a good citizen in this space we take up.
I was given a crazy, wonderful gift. I was given the gift of focused passion (stubbornness). In spite of feeling like I didn’t fit and sometimes don’t fit, it was all I ever wanted. One shouldn’t have to be that driven just to be a good citizen and curious. It is hugely important that the bar to such a thing isn’t so high, because we need everyone’s perspective to understand even the questions to ask much less to try to find the answers.
So, as a small step, I reached out to my colleagues to tell their stories. We all have different perspectives, but we are people who love what we do and hope that you’ll join us.
I cannot promise there won’t be people who question whether or not you belong, but I can promise that you do.