I like writing. I’ve missed writing since finishing my PhD, even though I didn’t really enjoy writing my thesis. Rather, I didn’t enjoy the style my thesis had to be written in – I kept getting told off for it being too informal, though my argument was that it should be able to be understood by everyone… I digress.
When I was in the throes of academia, I had no issues writing these monthly blog posts. There was always something that I needed to write about – from balancing thesis writing and paid work, to what to wear at conferences.
Now, as it is nearing a year since my PhD was officially complete, and academia seems increasingly far away from my life, I have trouble thinking of what to write about for these regular blog posts.
The main issue is that I feel like an imposter on here. We have so many wonderful guest authors who are working academics, scientists in industry, science communicators… the list goes on. And in comparison I feel like my posts are no longer relevant, as I no longer work in academia.
Something I have been asking myself a lot lately is whether I can still call myself a scientist?
Gone are the days where people obtained doctorates and then continued to work in that subject area for the rest of their life – though of course, some people still do that. Because of my doctoral training, or perhaps because of the way my brain was wired anyway, I will always think like a scientist. I will always be analytical, curious and questioning. Does that mean I will always be a scientist? I don’t know.
As much as I struggled in my PhD, I enjoyed having a label and knowing what I was. I was a graduate student, a PhD candidate. Now, the most accurate label for me is “multitasker”.
I have a job that I love for a wildlife charity within their communications team; I co-run this blog, and business; and I do my own freelance science communication work around spiders (my PhD subject).
But as (emotionally) rich as all these experiences have made me, it does mean that I certainly feel like a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. It’s just a feeling and I’m told not-accurate description of me but it’s a feeling that I’m struggling to fight back.
The blog posts won’t stop but I thought my struggles with them were worth one as I don’t think I’m alone in wondering if I’m still a scientist and if I can still have opinions about sciency things now my PhD is done.
Stefanie · 23 September 2019 at 23:06
Thanks so much for posting this – I feel quite similar and I went into a postdoc position after my PhD, so still claiming the “scientist” label is less in question. I know little bits about a lot of things, and maybe my opinion is worthwhile, sometimes, but there always seems to be someone else who is the real expert. I often feel like an imposter because I can’t define the unique perspective or contribution I have.
For what it’s worth, I appreciate hearing your opinions and reading your blog posts. To me, once you learn to think like a scientist, it doesn’t ever really go away.