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In Scholars on February 16, 2018 - 1:43 pm

Hall of Fame Reflection: Amanda Biederman

This blog is written by Amanda Biederman. Amanda is a 2018 CSF Hall of Fame inductee and a 2006 Carson Scholar who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Ohio University. 

My Path to Graduate School, Antarctica and Science Writing

I was first inspired to pursue a career in the sciences, ironically, in my eighth grade English class. We were assigned Ben Carson’s 1990 autobiography, Gifted Hands. In this book, Dr. Carson recounts his inspirational journey, rising above a life of extreme poverty and, ultimately, utilizing his talents to become one of the world’s most renowned neurosurgeons.

At the time, I resolved that I too would work hard to become a physician just like Dr. Carson. I had always found the natural world fascinating, and I believed that by pursuing a career in medicine, I could employ our understanding of nature to help better the lives of other humans.

Over the years, this goal shifted as I continued to learn more about science as well as myself as a person. I became interested in scientific research, rather than medical practice. In college, I began working in the physiological sciences; like Dr. Carson, I am fascinated by the biological processes that govern the functions of living organisms.

I am currently in my fourth year as a Ph.D. student at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and I study how organisms are impacted by temperature. I’ve even had the opportunity to travel to Antarctica to study how fishes at the farthest end of the Earth have adapted to thrive in freezing-cold waters.

But after completing graduate school, I’ve chosen to ultimately pursue a different passion. It’s a passion that I believe my middle school English teacher Mrs. Kelly Davey, who nominated me for the Carson Scholar award more than a decade ago, recognized in me long before I realized it myself. I aspire to be a writer.

More precisely, perhaps, I am working to utilize my skills as a writer to communicate science to the public. I’ve considered myself a writer for a long time – even longer, arguably, than I’ve been a scientist. For a long time, I believed these two disciplines were at odds with one another. Over the years, I’ve come to realize the critical need for science communication in our society.

Most people are interested in science and want to know more about it. And scientists are generally very eager and willing to discuss their research in a public setting. Open discourse between scientists and the public is critical, because science underlies nearly every aspect of our society. And yet this discourse can be challenging.

One of the greatest challenges in science communication is a language barrier. The technical nature of scientific language can make it difficult for scientists to communicate critical concepts to a general audience. As a writer with experience communicating with the public, and as a scientist with an appreciation for the process of laboratory research, I am working to break this barrier.

My career goals have changed many times over the years. But I’ve found that each time I change my path, I learn something new about myself and what I aspire to contribute to the world. Don’t be afraid to alter the course of your own path in life. It’s okay to be open to pursuing new passions; sometimes the “right” career choice isn’t obvious right away.

My life is very different from how I envisioned it at 14 years old, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and the lessons I’ve learned over the years. These experiences have helped me grow and develop as a scientist, a science writer and a human being.

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