Someone once asked me how I decided to become an editor. My answer was: I didn’t. Sometimes careers just sort of evolve. I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in genetics and moved to San Diego, the city of sun, sea air and biotech. My plan was simple; I was going to get a job doing lab work, and maybe someday I’d take a year off and write my book (Doesn’t everyone have a book they are going to write “someday”?). I loved research; I once wondered aloud how people who sat at desks all day could stay busy. What did they do all day? Were there really that many papers in the world that need shuffling about? In the lab I got to do something different every day: cloning, plasmid preps, cell culture, transfections, RNA preps, Northerns. It was like following a treasure map and not knowing what was under the big “X”.
Then in 1996 I moved back to the Midwest from San Diego to take a job with a start-up company. The job started off fast paced. There were less then twenty of us, so we all wore multiple hats. Over the next year, the company grew, and suddenly I found myself doing the same monotonous thing day after day. No optimizing reactions conditions, no analyzing results, just processing sample upon endless sample. One day while I was waiting for yet another gel to run, the woman I shared a bench with asked what would be my “dream job”. After some thought I said that I liked to write, and a job like that of our lone grant/paper/everything else writer was intriguing. My bench-mate turned and said “Did you know she is looking for help?”
I have been working as a science writer/editor for almost 13 years now. That casual conversation between bored colleagues became the stepping off point for a new career. Did I plan this career path? No. But I knew what I liked to do, and I knew what I was good at, so all I had to do was jump when the opportunity to do both presented itself. I am lucky. I get to combine my love of writing and words with my fascination with science. And now I know what people who sit at desks do all day.
If only I could find the time to write my book…