How I Make Work Like Play
A good half the time, I’m doing what I want to do, which is very rewarding. It’s like play.
Sam Wang is an associate professor, Department of Molecular Biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.
Wang grew up in California and studied physics at the California Institute of Technology. Seeking his Ph.D. at Stanford University, he switched to neuroscience. He has worked at Duke University as a postdoctoral fellow and aided political leaders as a Congressional Science Fellow. After completing his postdoctoral studies, he spent two years at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., where he learned to use pulsed lasers to study brain signaling before coming to Princeton.
Wang, who has published more than 40 articles on the brain in leading scientific journals. His educational reach extends past the laboratory and classroom in his books, popular articles and efforts to convey neuroscience to interested nonscientists.
I think that my own work day is not a very good example to people in other kinds of work because, as an academic, I have a lot of control over my time. I can work on a thing for an hour or two and if I get tired of it, I can move onto another thing.
It’s actually built into the life of a professor to constantly have the time broken up into little pieces: meet with a student, teach a class, go work on a paper, go have a lab meeting in the case of a scientist like me. And so I’m constantly changing tasks. And that has the advantage of giving me a certain amount of control over my time and also breaks up the tasks a little bit.
One thing for me that’s also the case is that as in many professions where people chose their professions because they wanted to do it, for me a lot of work is not really “work” per se, it’s play. So I’ve managed to make the work rewarding for its own sake. After decades of wanting to be a neuroscientist, I finally get to be a neuroscientist all the time.
I would say only half of my time is spend doing things that I would regard as doing work, per se, where if I really had to choose, I think maybe I might like to be doing something else.
But a good half the time, I’m doing what I want to do, which is very rewarding. It’s like play.
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