It’s a big question, one that is constantly asked at family gatherings (pre covid ofc), and one that is becoming ever more important as teachers begin to talk about the dread UCAS process. But everyone seems to think that because I know I want to do science, I’ve got my future planned out… that’s a big no! It changes every week, but I thought I would introduce you to my favourite areas of science!
If you’ve read my blog before, this is probably an obvious one. But space has many faces, you could study the universe as a whole (cosmology), the interactions between galaxies or how they form (astrophysics), or individual astronomical objects like stars (astronomy), or planets (planetary science).
Currently, I’m loving planetary science/astronomy, for both planets/moons in our solar system, and looking for exoplanets elsewhere! It’s fascinating that there are so many different types of planets, moons and solar systems so different from our own.
And amongst this you have spacecraft/systems engineering and rocket science, so that we are able to send missions into space, whether that’s earth orbit or into the unknown, to get the data to learn about it all in the first place!
Not forgetting human spaceflight- working in mission control, or maybe… becoming an astronaut myself? That would be so cool- imagine looking down on the world from above, and doing different experiments across different fields of science- as someone who loves so many different parts of science, this is definitely appealing!
Space also acts as a great science communication tool- most people will have seen a space documentary at some point, with the likes of Brian Cox, Dara O’Brian and Maggie Aderin Pocock gracing our screens in the evenings. I think it’s because space is so beautiful, and seems only just out of reach- everyone can relate to looking up on a clear night and seeing the stars, and wondering what’s out there.
Planetary Science can be quite abstract, far away, you might wonder what good it does. Space exploration is simply a continuation of human curiosity: what’s over that next hill, where did we come from? Planetary science and space science as a whole, looks to answer fundamental questions like these. Although these questions have been part of society and culture since the dawn of humanity, when the world is in flames- both literally and figuratively- it may seem like a poor choice of spending. But by studying other planets, we can learn about our own: whether that is drawing parallels between the venus of today and the earth of tomorrow, or learning about the atmosphere’s of the gas giants, it can all build up knowledge that can be applied to ‘real life’ problems like climate change, in which we must understand the earth as a global system.
That brings me to my next passion: climate science. Growing up in the 21st Century means growing up surrounded by media telling us how screwed the planet is, inactive governments playing the blame game, and seeing with our own eyes the impact of climate change through trivial things like less snow days, or ever more threatening storms, but also the other young people around the world doing something about it. So of course I am drawn to the science that studies climate and the atmosphere. Additionally, it can be studied from space, which is awesome! NASA’s work in climate science often goes unmentioned, but it’s thanks to earth observing satellites that we have data on how our world is changing, globally.
I also find engineering solutions- like renewable energy and carbon capture, very interesting- my dad is an engineer, and he’s definitely inspired me to look into the engineering side of things from a young age.
The other side of Earth Science is Volcanology, which I’ve always found super cool (Hawaii and Iceland are at the top of my bucket list). Volcanoes can be used to study the inside of the earth, and can be related to the formation of the planets- did you know Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system? Or that Io has over 400 active volcanoes? They’re such an extreme environment, and yet they create some of the most nutrient rich habitats! I mean… volcanoes… how cool??!
Ocean Science and Marine Biology
Linked to climate are the oceans- they will be severely affected by climate change, having absorbed 90% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Our oceans drive storms, currents, and winds, and they affect everyone, even if you don’t live by the coast. Also, there is so much we don’t know about the oceans- we know more about the surface of the moon than the ocean floor- how crazy is that! There is so much awesome science and biology going on in them. They are thought to be the cradle of life, where it all began, so they’re just as interesting as space. I grew up swimming in the stunning waters off the australian coast, which is probably what has made me so interested in them in the first place!
When I was younger I loved nature and wanted to be a vet, then I discovered science (and also that being a vet requires a strong stomach). I learnt that we are made of cells, and that they all work together so that we can think, move, and just live! My interest in cell biology is probably partly due to the fact the majority of science communicators on instagram seem to be cell biologists?! Which is awesome, because it means that when I learn something in a lesson, I remember that I actually already know what it is, because I’ve seen it on instagram- yay for instascience! I think being able to see what working in a lab is like, both the rewards (omg the microscope images!) and the difficulties, make it seem like a real job I could actually do! And it helps to understand science on a level that can be applied to medicine and help other people, which is really cool!
Tying this all together is astrobiology- the study of life in space, which brings together geoscience, biology, planetary science and space in general!
Its safe to say that I like science, and that’s most likely where my career path will take me, but i don’t yet know the final destination of my trajectory, so I’m going to keep writing blog posts and making youtube videos about anything and everything that interests me, and try to get work experience in as many different fields as possible, in the hope that I will find which suits me best… although to be honest I think I will thrive in any of the areas I mentioned above!
What’s your dream job? Did you end up in the job you thought you would? I’m looking to do Natural Sciences at Uni, so feel free to drop me any advice!