As a university professor, I am always in contact with young people. In theory, this connection makes us more aware of how society is changing, and what are the most prevalent attitudes, fashions, desires, and life expectations among young people. It is also true that our population sample is biased: Not all young people choose to pursue university studies, and if they do, not all of them will choose to study a degree out of vocation or because they really love it, rather they may choose it thinking that having such training will open doors for them. Defined professional future.. We’re specifically into the weeks students have just received their university access note (the famous “sele”, selective), and how they fall into the ordered list of potential degrees they’re interested in. We all see in the faces of our youth a range of emotions, from initial uncertainty to joy and resignation or also, unfortunately, disappointment and frustration, depending on the outcome of the task.
Since my teaching takes place in degrees in the “biological” field (biology and subfields, such as biomedical sciences or biotechnology), all with a high professional component, the cut-off marks are very high. As a teacher, I consider myself outstanding, We have very motivated students and the vast majority want to be scientists And they dream of finding a cure for cancer, avoiding very dangerous genetic diseases, saving whales from extinction, reducing the impact of climate change, increasing the sustainability of human actions … We live science from our educational and research world, and we project our ideas on our students about what it means to be a “scientist” . However, we rarely fully understand the terms and conditions of what it means to become a scientist., either as a student or as a professional; But sometimes, there are specific situations that open our eyes to reality, and this week I had one of those moments of epiphany.
I attended this week Biology Nightorganized by Catalan Society of Biologya subsidiary of Institute of Catalan Studies. The event, in which prizes are given to biologists at various stages of their academic and professional training, always takes place on a night in July, and is an opportunity to meet colleagues from different fields. The first epiphany I had was researching who got the awards, and the gender ratio. The field of biology in undergraduate studies is predominantly female, but from Ph.D.s, the percentage of women drops startlingly in a continuous trickle. This fact is widely known and debated, and is what we call the “gender gap,” but its perception is still painful. Of the biology research awards that have been awarded, the three finalists are for the award Best high school research paper The three girls were finalists for the award Best final degree project They were girls for the best Scientific article derived from a dissertationthere were already two boys and a girl, which is the same for a prize Best young detective (The doctor who has just read his doctoral thesis). The boys won the last two awards. In short, it is a small sample, but the bias is repeated, in one form or another, in every edition.
Devoting yourself to scientific research should not make unbearable demands in the personal sphere, especially in relation to the status of the gender
A second epiphany was harder and more predictable, with the bittersweet words of a very young researcher who had just received the award for best project at the end of the degree – publicly announced when the award was recognized – as well as a private conversation with another of the finalists (thank you, Mireya and Julia !), those who made me drop my blindfold and make me think for a long time.
The young winner said it had always been her dream to be a scientist, but no one ever told her that to achieve it, she had to have parents with enough money so that she wouldn’t have to work to support herself.. In his case, the fact that work and studies were combined meant that he could not give them as much devotion as others, and consequently, grades for subjects—good though they were—were not outstanding. This meant that when looking for a research group to do his final project, many doors were closed to him. It’s true that Many research groups prefer to host and train students who can stay later to continue studying for Masters and PhD degrees, and for this, you have to win a scholarship, which for the most part is very competitive and depends on the grade point average. The search for a research group ended in fruition, but then the real connection with research began. Although finding a welcoming group, with a stimulating theme and support from teachers and other researchers, I realized that investigation requires all hours of the day, if I want to progress. He began work in the laboratory very early in the morning to finish late and was already directly related to work, for evidently the needs of having to maintain himself had not disappeared or diminished. Miria won the award for the best project at the end of the degree, but she could not stay here, and she is studying for her master’s degree abroad, where she will definitely continue her way towards her dream, to be a scientist. She ended up advocating for a public university that is inclusive, fair, equitable, and feminist, because right now, people who want to study, but have to combine it with work, can find their doors closed after much effort.
The other finalist was happy now, but this present satisfaction contrasted starkly with her feelings of disappointment and frustration that developed when she was in her class. Excessive competition between classmates, an excessive sense of non-attendance, and excessive demands on oneself and the university environment. You are never enough Good … a distinct sense of imposter syndrome which, fortunately, has been redirected by Erasmus’s stay to do research work at a British university, where she actually stayed to study her master’s degree, because she feels more integrated and believes her goals are more in line with her personality to be Able to devote herself to science.
In short, there is a lot of material to think about and think about. I will choose three final messages for all young people, both to those who have begun their journey or who have already taken part in it, and also to those of us who are great scholars. There is always more than one path to reach the end goal, and many times we worry about taking specific paths or shortcuts, but other options are also valid. You need to enjoy the chosen path and not regret the unexplored opportunities. We have to strive to make a university more inclusive and social, which, without diminishing its value in the transmission of knowledge, does not expel anyone for reasons of economics or diversity.
Devoting yourself to scientific research should not make unbearable demands in the personal sphere, especially in relation to the status of the gender. We are moving in this direction, but there is still work to be done.