Surviving the World

A Photocomic Education by Dante Shepherd

Lesson #3075 - The Race

Seriously, we'll be exhausted if we're running the entire time, although it's not like the race isn't going on whether we stop for a breather or not! Pass the baton whenever you need it, grab a breath, then get ready to grab the baton on the next lap around the track. Which will be in, oh, ten minutes?

I started off my classes yesterday with a brief mention of everything that is happening in the world right now. My students could be conservative, they could be liberal - I don't know. I do know that some of them are Muslim and many of them are international. I felt that it would be neglectful to never bring it up, particularly when the general level of stress is much higher than normal and some of them may feel that some of the recent developments have been specifically directed at them. I want to briefly share what I said here - maybe it will be helpful to you if you're an instructor, maybe not, but I tried to take a reasonable science-centric approach to what I said:

"I just want to briefly talk about what is happening in the real world right now, if that's okay. I really don't want to talk about politics here, given it's an engineering course, but I firmly believe that the best scientists and engineers are people who have (or should have) one foot in their work and one foot in the real world. Not to maintain a work-life balance, although that's important, but because we as scientists and engineers are trying to be scientists and engineers to improve the world, to make people's lives better, to improve technology and techniques and medicines and more - and you can't improve the world if you don't understand the context of the world, if you don't understand the context of what you are trying to improve. So I just want to briefly touch on a few points.

"You should be aware that there are several scientific organizations that will have major influences on your occupational future, given that you are all trying to become scientists and engineers. A lot of what will be available to you in the real world can fluctuate - what jobs are available, what scientific fields are available, what lines of research will be available - not to mention the quality of your degree, given that the strength of your degree is in part based on the reputation of your institution, and a drop in the quality of the school such as resulting through a drop in research funding can have an effect even after you graduate. These scientific organizations that will potentially be of great help to you occupationally in the future - such as NSF, NIH, EPA, DOE, NASA - the strength of these organziations will influence what you can do as scientists and engineers. So I am not saying that you should unequivocally support or advocate for these organizations - but you should certainly be aware of the state they are in and the influences they are under.

"The other thing is that you should be aware that some of the greatest breakthroughs in science and engineering have occurred because the team working together had diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures, diverse approaches, diverse techniques - it was because they had such a broad background shared together that they were able to make new discoveries, new analyses, new conclusions. So consider exactly what you need to do to make sure that you can secure that team, those voices, those people. On a personal note, you never want to feel - ten years, five years, a year, a month, a week, whatever - you never want to feel regret that you didn't stand up for someone or support someone or welcome someone when they needed you to. So if times come when you might need to do something . . . don't put yourself in a position you may feel regret for later.

"So do what you have to do, but be aware of what's going on, and reach out to others if they need, and reach out to others if you need it. You want to be good scientists and engineers, well, think about what that means and what you need to do to fully achieve that.

"There are organizations on campus that you can reach out to if you need to talk to someone. But my door's also open if you need it."