You might have noticed that my blogging output has, for want of a better word, taken a plunge over the last few years. There were a lot of reasons. Inertia, lack of inspiration, burnout, family and work time pressures, a personal life that had drifted away from academia - all that played a role in moving me away from regular blogging.
The primary cause was something different. At some point in the last few years, I realized that I no longer had a clue where I fit in with this broad scientific community that most of us inhabit. I'd started my PhD with every intention of doing phenomenal research, writing some great papers, and pursuing a career as a full-time scientist. When we left Hawai'i in 2007, I had every intention of picking up my degree work again at the earliest opportunity. When we returned to Hawai'i last summer, I had no intention of jumping back into the lab life.
The time I spent away from the department - not to mention all the time I spent sitting in a lifeguard chair starting at a swimming pool - gave me time to think about what I really wanted to accomplish, how happy I was with the progress I'd been making, if the path I was planning to take might get me there, and if not, what would. (Yes, there's some serious navel-gazing going on here, but bear with me and I promise I'll get to a point sooner or later.)
I learned a lot during the couple of years I spent in graduate school. Fundamentally, I learned that it's not the life for me. Fortunately, I learned that before I invested too much time and effort to back out. To be honest, I'm hard pressed to articulate exactly why this is. Mostly, I think it's that I realized that as interesting as a lot of the questions I was looking at were, there wasn't anything there that I could see spending the rest of my life looking at. I've got great admiration for people like the late Hampton Carson, who dedicate their entire lives to the investigation of small slices of nature. I just found that it's not the kind of thing I can do.
I also learned a lot about where my interests and strengths lie. I love library research - much more than lab work. I enjoy looking at recent papers to see what's new, but I also love going back through the citations to see how our knowledge of the area grew and developed over time, and how the new paper fits with the rest of what we know. I also realized that a lot of the times I've been the happiest in the past several years has been when I've been learning about the political and legal aspects of science.
This is all by way of saying that I've applied to, and been accepted by, the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai'i. I'll be starting in the fall, and I'm planning on focusing on environmental law. It's going to be an interesting experience, and one that I plan to try to blog my way though. (But I'm making no promises on that.)
I'll have more in the coming days about this process of switching gears, the application process, and what I'm doing to prepare myself for the fall.