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Why I Chose to Become a Scientist

Ray Jayawardhana: Being a scientist has given me a chance to see the world.

Growing up as a kid I was interested in science but I was also interested in many other things.  When I came to university in the U.S. I was quite drawn to the idea of a liberal arts education where you get exposed to a number of different disciplines and you get some sense of how different disciplines approach their practice. 

It’s a lot of fun to just play with ideas and share some insights with your friends and other students and faculty members.  But in particular I was sort of torn between going into science or science journalism.  As an undergraduate I sort of struggled with that choice.  

So writing my new book gave me the chance to sort of pretend to be a writer while my day job is very much as a practicing scientist doing research, teaching and working with students and post doctorate fellows and colleagues on interesting questions. 

Science is a very international and very open and engaging kind of endeavor.  So it’s a lot of fun to be part of.  You’ve got colleagues and friends from around the world.  You get to really chase after questions that you think of and that you can come up with clever ways of pursuing. There’s a bit of competition but there’s also a lot of collaboration among different scientists and it’s a very fun and exciting sort of career to have if you’re inclined that way.  

I’ve certainly enjoyed it a lot.  It’s given me a chance to see the world as well.  As a kid I dreamed of visiting Greenland and I have now.  I got a chance to go to Antarctica with a group of scientists to collect meteorites.  So as a scientist, especially if you’re a little bit broader you get to experience many different aspects of life and of the world as well. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.


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