Why did I study biology? The short answer would be because I feel part of nature and I need to understand how it works. But if you want to know in detail the process that led me to study and work in biology… keep reading!
THE SCHOOL AND WHAT WAS NOT THE SCHOOL
From an early age I have always had a great interest in animals, like almost all children, I guess. I felt a great curiosity and fascination in how they were, how they behaved, where they lived. I enjoyed (and enjoy) long trips in the woods, where I could easily find small animals and observe how insects moved antennae, how birds sang and how difficult was to find them… So my childhood favorite books were those which explained curiosities about animals. Also since very young my parents instilled in me a great respect for other living beings, so I have always felt part of nature and if it is damaged touches me personally.
When I was a child a fact that amazed me was the visit to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum of Barcelona: in addition to animals, the world had a lot of wonderful phenomena and also had an explanation. I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but one thing was clear: in school I’d choose science. Caused me some sadness that many students didn’t choose science only because they would no longer do mathematics. But thanks to this, I was lucky to be in a class with few students and teachers who taught scientific knowledge with the same passion that I received it. If you’re in high school and you also have to choose, even if you don’t like a subject or teacher, if you feel that science in general and biology in particular are for you, do not hesitate and do it. With work and perseverance you can achieve almost anything; furthermore, whatever the path you choose, there will always be a subject or a teacher that you dislike.
I must confess that my first choice for university was not biology. Getting into university was a series of mishaps that turn into advantages and led me to study biology, a decision that I should had taken first. What the children who like animals when they grow up? Exactly: veterinarians. That was my first choice and the second, biology. Fortunately (because now I know I could not have been a veterinarian, vocationally speaking) I did not reach enough mark after the university entrance exam. In fact, the lowest mark I had was in… the biology exam! I also didn’t have enough mark to get into a university in my city, so I had to change the options and study in another city. But what had started as a bad experience, has been one of the best experiences of my life, because this forced independence allowed me to grow rapidly as a person, and to study in a new university at that time, so it was not overcrowded, and I had access to new labs and materials.
I remember the desmotivating speech of the dean in the first class: “you have chosen a degree that has no job opportunities”. I did not know what would be my job in the future. I just wanted to know how life worked. If I would finish in a job I did not like, at least, I would have studied something I liked. Two things were clear: I didn’t wanted to be a teacher or not to specialize in anything. Biology was too broad to spend life studying a single subject. Maybe it was a mistake, because I closed myself doors to do a PhD and making contacts that could have helped me to go into the labour market. Do not wait to finish your degree to establish contacts and find out everything you can about job opportunities as soon as you can.
What provided me the degree? That animals are not only interesting, but absolutely everything: plants, fungi, bacteria, ecosystems and genetics… everything works in a fascinating and beautiful way, and even errors of nature and unanswered questions hide wonderful things.
Well, it was not quite certain that there was no job for biologists. Even before finishing the degree, studying biology allowed me to start working as an environmental educator. It wasn’t the job I had in mind, but I discovered the great reward it is to transmit knowledge and how it can encourage the curiosity and surprise that I had when I was a child in other small children. During that first job I studied the course of Veterinary Assistant Technician, which allowed me to work outdoors with wildlife. While it is a job sometimes little grateful (most of the time is to clean the enclosures of animals), releasing an animal to nature that you’ve taken care of during their recovery is priceless.
Pressured by the prejudice that “the only thing you can do with biology is become a teacher” I wanted to try with a Master of Environmental Impact Studies. Again, I did not establish contacts because I was working as an educator and I did not access any business practice. But now I do not know if I would feel comfortable working in a consultancy. If you’re not sure if you’ll like it, I think is a mistake to study something to get jobs with a supposed higher salary.
So I continued spreading biology and science in different centers. As the great Carl Sagan said, after all, when you’re in love, you want to tell everybody.
The experience definitely made me understand that children are the future, and the adults also need to continue learning to understand that if we do not respect life, everyone is harmed. And to do not make mistakes due to ignorance or fear, we should open ourselves to the vast field of knowledge that biology has. Being sustainable and respectful towards other living beings also makes us better people towards other people.
But what if at last it ends up that you don’t like the field that you studied or your job or project cannot continue? Well, certainly in biology you will find another area that interests you or has currently more job opportunities. There are many options: working in the field, in the laboratory, in a completely unknown natural environment, making studies of conservation, wildlife, botany, biomedical research, teaching, environmental consultancy … Maybe you’ll have to re-study to have access to certain jobs, but it is never too late to change. Biology, like any other subject that you feel passion, it’s just a lifestyle, a way to see the world, rather than something you have to study to find a job. And if finally you do not work with anything related to biology, you will continue having these knowledge that will make you enjoy and understand the world every time you go on a nature trip or new discoveries appear.