Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A shortage of scientists? I think not

Hey, lady, what is your job like? How are you so lucky to work here? Can I get a job here when I grow up?

When schoolchildren visit the laboratory, they have lots of questions. What is it like at the bottom of the ocean? Who built the submarine? Do you have a boyfriend? Some of them, I can answer. Some of them, I cannot.

Since I started to work here in June, one thing I have realized over and over is how much I have yet to learn, and how, like a child, I must continually ask questions of those around me. As a scientist, inquiry is at the very core of my nature, and without it, I am doomed.

At the start of a tour, Jerry will ask the children to gather in front of the submarine. When he gives the signal, I kill the lights. "This is what it looks like at the bottom of the ocean," he'll say. Then he turns the sub's spotlights on, and the kids start to go crazy. "Without these spotlights, it would be about as boring as walking around with a bag over your head. But with them...we can chase sharks!"

Like the children, I find my heart racing with anticipation throughout the tour. Every time one of their hands shoots up, and a question is asked, I find myself wondering the answer as well. So many times, I'll hear an answer and say, "Wow, I didn't know that."

Over the course of the summer, I have learned about deep sea exploration, examining samples taken from the deep ocean, and how repair a submarine. And even though I have a B.A. in Marine Biology and am studying for my Masters, I didn't have a clue about any of this stuff beforehand.

So, the next time a child asks me, "How do I get a job here?" I will be tempted to reply: "You can apply next summer. You already have all the skills that you need."