Thursday 9 May 2024

My Review Of An Unrelated Degree

 At some point in the last four years or so, I made the somewhat surprising decision to take an undergraduate degree in a field that I had no expertise nor prior affinity for. That field was Biology. After a year of Biology, I switched to Biochemistry, because I was after the really nitty-gritty low-down on the science of life.

Well, how's that worked out for me? Throughout my whole degree, I told myself and others that I was only in it for the love of the science. I wasn't ever likely to get a job in the field. At the present moment, I feel a little less strongly about it (I'm writing this in the middle of my final-ever exam season. Go figure) but I still feel that my future career will most likely take me away from the field of Biochemistry. 

I had a brief stint with a fast-track Master's course. Until quite recently, my plan had been to get this so-called "Integrated Master's" degree by taking an extra year to carry out a proper research assignment. I cut this short for the simple reason that the only purpose of this extra year was to support my path to a PhD, and then a research assistant, and then a research associate, and a research whatever-else until I eventually land as a highly-paid lab technician. Aside from the fact it would take about 15 years of my life to ever get there, I simply realized I didn't have much of a path in Biochemistry. 

My research project would likely have been something along the lines of a mycological bioinformatician. Well, putting it that way, it does sound a little fun.

But although I have a passion for the life science of fungi, the only research opportunities in mycology are predominantly concerned with killing them or using them to kill other things. There's a lot left unknown about the true biochemistry of fungi as opposed to other living organisms, including the mechanics of their symbioses and interactions with other organisms. This is almost by design-- there's just no money in it! My favourite research paper is this one, titled the "fastest short jump in nature", written about the careful mechanism of spore dispersal from mushroom-producing fungi. It's very interesting, and I advise you take a read if you're even a little interested. The part that brings me hesitation, though, is the lengthy part at the end of the article:

Like most mycological research, work on ballistospore discharge proceeds, albeit slowly and often with limited funding, because it is fascinating. As a justification, this aligns with all manner of artistic pursuits, and, fundamentally, ballistospore research is a creative endeavor.

Well, the odds are that I will never find a place to research fungi. If I really charge head-on with the brawn of my brain (rather than the brain of my brawn), I might be able to dredge data all day finding genomic targets for new antimicrobial drugs, but really, is that how I want to spend my life? I hate breathing mold as much as the next guy, but for me, it could be a very lifeless journey.

So, here I am. soon-graduating with a BSc in Biochemistry. Despite all the complaining I just did, my experiences have been so valuable. As challenging and out-right depressing as it was at some points, I would find it hard to say that I would trade it for anything. 

As one might expect, I learned a lot about myself-- both figuratively and literally. Ultimately, that's all I ever wanted out of this endeavor! The benefit of this degree over, say, Computer Science (or-- heaven forbid-- Game Development) at the university level is that this degree brings together so many demographics of people. The science of life is truly universally beloved, and it's given me the opportunity to meet people from places I would otherwise never have been able to meet. 

The social aspect of university is a major one. Perhaps if I had known all this from the beginning, then I would have gone to a Game Development course in the first place. That way, I'd probably be a little bit ahead of where I am now. 

Who's to say where I'll end up, anyway? Anyone know any "fun" mycology labs hiring? :)

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