Sunday, January 13, 2013

Loving Both the Sciences and the Humanities

So, if you're reading this, you most likely think of me as a writer. A humanities sort of person. Which makes sense, given that my first novel is coming out in 2014. But here's something you might not expect: I've done lots of work in biology too.

Over the past two years or so, I've worked in three different biology labs: one at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, one at UCLA, and one at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. They've all been very unique experiences, and they've all been wonderful. I've gone hunting for herbivore teeth in the Page Museum archives, done a full research project about wolf skulls at UCLA, and sorted gene expression data at the John Wayne Cancer institute. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

There's this strange myth, though, I think, that you're only supposed to like one side of the academic spectrum. Sciences or Humanities, pick one. Whenever I've talked to someone from my lab about my writing or one of my writing friends about my science exploits, I've sort of felt as if they weren't taking the subject they were involved with very seriously. "She obviously loves her lab work, and so the writing must just be a hobby," or "She writes constantly, so the science must be an extracurricular activity that she does just for fun," I could feel them thinking.

In reality, I love both. I really do. And though it does seem like I'm heading along more of an English trajectory than a Biology one, I still love my science, and want to continue studying it in college. I'm planning on doing some sort of double major or major-minor thing in Bio and English. I want to continue doing research in college, and I also want to continue writing novels (obviously.) I aim to be a full-time writer, I think--but I would be equally happy working as a research scientist.

I know that not everyone is like me. I know a lot of people do, in fact, gravitate towards either the sciences or the humanities. Still, it always feels a little awkward and unpleasant when one of my interests or the other is sees as less important to me. I want to shout and say, "Hey! Guess what! It's not impossible that I could love both equally!"

Anyway, I love both bio and writing. I've always thought that it's kind of cool to know lots of stuff about lots of stuff that has nothing to do with each other. I know about vertebrate morphology and prose poetry, story structure and gene expression. How cool is that? I've nearly always got something to talk about, whether I'm speaking with a scientist or a journalist or someone in between who wants to know more about either of my interests.

So, here's my message to all the english or history lovers wondering if they should try to get a summer internship in a lab, or the physics or biology lovers wondering if they should try their hand at poetry, painting, or costume design--GO FOR IT. It's so much fun. I'm a firm believer that you should try everything; if it doesn't work, or you end up not liking it, then that's that. You tried. Oh well. But you'll never know if you don't try, will you?

Don't be intimidated by this strange idea that you can only love either the sciences or humanities, but not both. Learning is always good, whatever it is. Explore. Strike out. Have an adventure! Take a class, get a job, read books. Have fun doing whatever the hell it is that you want to do.


  1. The division has been established between the sciences and the humanities. This division is probably more absolute now than it has ever been before. It is practically impossible for a dissertation writing services student to study subjects in both fields.