When I was about in the middle of my undergraduate studies, I decided that I needed some laboratory practice. So I joined a lab that was studying Drosophila genetics. The Prof. there, his name was Enzo Muñoz, was an old-school geneticist, with rather conservative views. We spoke often. He was talking about science. I remember one thing he said once: “There are no boring topics in science, only bored scientists.” I thought at that time that he was defending himself a little bit.
Later I understood that he was actually talking about something more profound. Nothing in science is boring. There are scientists that may get bored about something, but that does not make that topic a boring one, it only says that those scientists have been unable to find a way to crack that problem or make progress in that topic. Or they simply did not understand its depth.
As a junior researcher, the PhD period is not just formative, it is transformative. The first step of a very tall ladder that we never end climbing. It’s about becoming a scientist, a period of mental growth. If a student is not a different person after PhD studies, then something didn’t go well. The key thing is to find an environment that nurtures this intellectual growth. To find a mentor that has time to spend discussing these issues. How to think about science. How to find what is important and what is not. What literature to read, how to read it… it’s endless.
Science and art, music and literature, these are the four things that make us human, these are the highest expression of humanity. And they are the best way to spend one’s life. Here is a final thought, which may be applicable to all four: science, to be a scientist, is not a job. It’s not even a profession. It’s a lifestyle. It’s the way we live our lives.