There's More to Research than Research30th July 2018
Research is not the only component of doing science. For me, practicing physics is so much more than that.
Practicing physics also requires us to share our research with others. This means sharing with fellow scientists to cultivate collaboration and stronger projects. We do this by writing and publishing papers, attending conferences, and hosting talks given by our colleagues from other institutions.
It also means reaching out to the public. We can inspire others with the mysteries of the universe as well as the tools that science gives us to study them. We can encourage students to consider STEM fields for their own futures, since these skills will be integral to the advancement and improvement of our society. To this end, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a tour program to share the cutting-edge science being done at SLAC with the tax-paying public that is funding it. Scientists also give public talks about their work, participate in outreach events such as the Bay Area Science Festival, and even write for science blogs! ;)
Finally, we must share our research with our elected officials to highlight the importance and impact of our work and ensure we have continued funding with which to do it. Every year, the particle physics community sends a group of about 50 scientists to Washington, DC to meet with members of Congress and discuss our field’s recent progress, our future plans, and our funding needs for the coming year. Last year, our coalition of scientists scheduled almost 400 meetings and met with almost 90% of congressional offices.
I believe that each scientist has the additional responsibility of ensuring that our research groups, our institutions, and our field as whole are welcoming environments that enable physicists of all types and identities to do their best possible work. Physics does not have the best historical track record when it comes to the participation of women or underrepresented minorities, nor are we making particularly fast progress in increasing these numbers, despite the best efforts of many individuals, programs, and organizations. To effect real change in the climates of our institutions, it is essential that every scientist considers these issues, and does their part to address them.
Finally, we all have a responsibility to ourselves. Science is a difficult and lengthy endeavor - it is important to make sure you don’t burn out in the process. This means that a healthy work-life balance is essential. I love hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing, because these activities allow me to take a genuine break from work since you often have no cell reception, no internet, no email. I also play a lot of video games, which is great for winding down at the end of the day, and is something that my significant other and I can enjoy together. Video games can be rather productive - I recently won some scholarship money for being a member of the team that placed third at the Hearthstone Collegiate Championships. I also still love learning new things, even in my free time, so I have recently picked up sewing and have begun to make some of my own clothes, which allows for a nice creative outlet.
So for me, the term “research” not only means doing quality science and producing new knowledge. It also means working with and for the communities that our work affects, including myself, my research group, the field, our institutions, and the world.