As one who works in two areas, I always am on the lookout for papers and thoughts that discuss the idea of “Thinking Outside The Box”. While you may not understand some of the terminology that is used in this paper, you should be able to grasp the significance of what Alison is talking about.
It is interesting that I discovered this paper by accident (though serendipity may be a better word) but some of my research would overlap what she is interested in.
Originally posted on a1tg:
I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference that is completely outside of my field of study. I study bioinorganic chemistry and do most of my work on small metalloproteins, so I spend a lot of time thinking about fundamentals like inorganic spectroscopy, biophysics, and biochemistry. I managed to have some interdisciplinary experiences early on and these likely influenced my choice of a Chemical Biology program over the more traditional programs that I was also admitted to.
This past week I saw some talks at the Goldschmidt, which is one of the largest geochemistry conferences. While there, I spent most of my time at the bio-geochemistry talks, since that’s what’s most interesting to me, and stuff like vulcanism (it’s a thing, I swear) and mantle chemistry is totally out of my reach. I have long had an interest in applying some of my skills to environmental problems and questions, but outside of reading some papers, haven’t had the opportunity to get a good idea of what’s been going on in the field. This experience got me thinking a lot about specialization in science and how, without having finished my Ph.D., I feel that am already very specialized.
While it’s true that what our group does is pretty interdisciplinary and what my project has entailed has been particularly broad, I worry about being able to broaden my horizons even more. Most people will tell you that the most important thing you learn in a Ph.D. is learning what you don’t know and how to get that information, but it’s still hard to imagine beginning a in a completely different field whether that be policy, publishing, or just a different scientific field, without knowing what’s there and what isn’t. Understanding the state of the field and the perspectives from which a lot of people in the field work are important to be able to work productively and push limits.