Science Educator

I’ll be submitting my application for a certain scholarship soon. To help us, my university sent our applications to two on-campus faculty for preliminary review and feedback. I received my reviews back a few days ago.

I received very supportive and lovely comments. They said that they thought I would be a strong candidate for all of the criteria. The reviews have been quite flattering to read.

My one weakness? My future career goal: science educator.

Reviewer #1 stated (these are direct quotes copied and pasted from the review): “…Perhaps she could list something more ambitious or ambitious sounding, at least for this application. Nothing wrong with teaching OF COURSE, but this is very competitive.” … “This has the potential to be very strong. My one concern is the somewhat vague and somewhat uninspiring plan that after all this work and international collaboration and completing a Ph.D. she plans to be a “science educator.””

Reviewer #2 stated: “…More detail on the level of academia sought would be helpful inclusion along with any future research plans post graduation.”

Now, writing is a funny thing. It could just be that the term “science educator” sounds a little lackluster. I chose it specifically, because I don’t know quite where I’ll end up post-graduation. However, for the interest of a scholarship committee, I might just need to be a bit more specific about what level I would like to teach at post-graduation, as Reviewer #2 suggests, and jazz up the language a bit.

Perhaps Michio Kaku wouldn’t mind if I borrowed a phrase he uses to describe himself: popularizer of science. Or perhaps I’ll stick with “science educator” since Bill Nye (the Science Guy) has been described that way. Maybe “science communicator,” as Neil deGrasse Tyson is sometimes referred, sounds more ambitious?

However, if my reviewers’ problems with my career goal are not just issues of wording, these pieces of feedback leave me with questions:

My career goal lacks ambition, because it’s teaching?
Educating others about science is uninspiring?
My future goals are less interesting if they don’t include research?

These questions are puzzling to me, because I can think of no greater challenge than educating others so they can appreciate the wonders of the natural world. I feel most inspired when I think of serving the population and working towards the achievement of this goal. Also, I have always been inspired when I’ve talked to educators in various positions, some of whom also happen to do research. As for the last question, well, not everyone is cut out for a life of research.

So, I have to think how I will address these suggestions from my reviewers. Or, perhaps, I will ignore their feedback and submit my application as is. Maybe the scholarship committee will find my goal of becoming a science educator to be more inspiring and ambitious than the faculty reviewers did…

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