by Natalie Hamer | Biomedical Science Student at Newcastle University |
My favorite question has always been ‘why?’ As a child, this question frustrated my mother to no end. I asked her a million questions, and interrogated all of her answers. When I wasn’t demanding to know ‘why’, I could often be found with my head in a book trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible. But it was never enough. The more I learned, the more I needed to know. Naturally, this led me to the world of science. I was fascinated by how every cell in our body has the same set of instructions yet some form skin cells whilst others become red blood cells. I was amazed that the sun is a burning ball of gas held together by its own gravity, yet somehow it provides the energy we need to generate all life on Earth. These amazing concepts seemed too big to comprehend. Yet, instead of shying away from them, I dove right in and readily accepted the challenges they posed.
It would be easy to believe that a career in medicine was an obvious choice for me. Unfortunately, this was not the case. In high school, I was labelled as a ‘geek’. Between this and my love of science, I was pushed towards a career in medicine. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of being good enough to get into medical school appealed to me and after some little persuasion, I threw myself into this new challenge. The more I got into it, the more people expected me to go off and become a medical doctor. I fell down a rabbit hole where I felt that this one decision had defined me. As such, I ignored all the signs that maybe medicine wasn’t for me. For starters, I’d always had a crushing fear of needles (a great quality for a doctor I know). Moreover, the more I learned about medicine, the more I realized that I preferred the science behind the medicine instead of the clinic. Despite this, I kept my doubts to myself and plodded along with my medical school applications and interviews (in the UK, students can apply to medical training programs immediately after high school), too afraid to let my parents or my teachers down. These people had supported me and believed in me. I felt like a fraud saying I had made a mistake… That was until results day.
A friend of mine had applied to study a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and was delighted to accept her admission. When I asked her why she’d chosen a degree in science, a field where the public often overlook all your hard work and great discoveries, she told me this:
“As a medical doctor, I may help a few hundred people over my life time. But as a scientist, my discoveries could change the lives of billions.”
It’s funny how a simple sentence can change the course of your entire life. But her words did just that. Abandoning my plans to go to medical school, I also accepted a bachelor’s of biomedical sciences from Newcastle University and three years on, I can honestly say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Every day I get to follow my passion and delve into all the intricacies of the human body. The best thing for me is that learning never ceases. There’s always more to know and more questions to be answered. I currently work at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) trying to develop cures for certain auto-immune diseases but next year I plan to take on a new challenge, the PhD.
A huge part of my science journey has also been in science communication. I am saddened that too much of the extraordinary research going on in the world rarely makes it to the eyes of the masses. This is something that I want to change. With that in mind, I put a lot of effort in making all the exciting science research that continually amazes me more accessible to everyday people. It doesn’t matter how great your research is if it never leaves the lab or is trapped behind a wall of inaccessible jargon. In my eyes, great science and public engagement go hand in hand. Who wouldn’t want to share their passion with the world? At the moment, I do this through my blog, www.scishot.wordpress.com, and this is something that I hope to continue wherever my career in science may take me. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll inspire someone else to become a scientist just like my friend inspired me.