Neuroengineering. Nanotechnology. Geoengineering. Biogerontology.
These words make their homes in my journal as I lift my hand from the page. My lips crease into a smile as I ponder the unimaginable implications each discipline has to offer. Yet even in this smile is a shrivel of doubt casted by subtle forehead wrinkles. I have written underneath these disciplines the following questions:
What impact do I want to make in this life?
How will I maximize my passion for science in a way that benefits the world and helps me understand myself?
Am I making the right choice to not choose medicine as my career?
Choosing a career is hard for everyone. There is always a feeling of regret that the career you choose is not the ideal one that maximizes your potential. Choosing your career is even made worse when you abandon a previous career you always thought you’d end up doing.
This is exactly what happened to me. Before high school, I was set on being a neurosurgeon. I became immersed in the idea that our emotions, memories, personalities, and dreams arose from layers of communicating nerve cells situated in a three pound mass of tissue. I thought that going into neurosurgery would offer me a stable job AND a chance to practice my passion for neuroscience.
While this is true, neurosurgery isn’t the only way to show my passion for the brain. I neglected to even think about future scientific disciplines that had the potential to change our world. I thought I wouldn’t be capable of being in the frontier with other scientists, uncovering novel discoveries. I came to underestimate my abilities and believed the only path for me was going through the hoops to becoming a neurosurgeon.
But I know now that I am wrong. Especially after watching these videos, I believe I can make a larger impact on the world and society at large by following my heart. I have found my purpose in life: to do life differently, to stray away from “safe” careers and become more open to novel scientific disciplines. Most importantly, I want to be an active spokesperson for the following disciplines that have changed the way I view science’s role in society.
Neuroengineering is a branch of neuroscience and bioengineering aimed at constructing and enhancing neural tissue and silicon interfaces. Its purpose is to aid in the development of devices that could interpret and control neural signals, producing purposeful responses. My dream is to develop technologies connected to doors, lights, TVs, and phones, that is aimed at reading the brainwaves of users to control those apparatuses. Ideally, this technology would be put in the hands of those who are immobile first, to aid in their quality of living.
Additionally, my ultimate goal is to make humans “immortal” by saving our memories and consciousness onto floppy disks that would be stored in a national archive. This way, if our family wants to revive us, they can upload our memories onto a reconstructed body made in our image (with the same DNA).
Nanotechnology is a sub-discipline of materials engineering aimed at controlling particles at the nanoscale level. This relatively new field has novel implications in improving the strength of industrial materials, making clothing more/less responsive to heat, making objects hydrophobic, and, most excitingly, improving the lives of humans and other organisms. The last use, dubbed bionanotechnology, aims to lengthen human lifespans by creating particles that would aid the immune system in remembering and killing viruses while freeing the body of free radicals and radioactive particles linked to cancer. Oh this gives me shivers just thinking about it!
Geoengineering, or climate engineering, aims to understand the chemistry of the atmosphere, which by the way, is extremely complex, to make widespread changes above the Earth’s surface that would reduce global warming. This discipline is somewhat scary because if things don’t go so well, the Earth may turn into the cold, icy planet depicted in Snowpiercer.
Finally, biogerontology is a field of science dedicated to increasing the human lifespan by slowing the process of ageing.
All these fields would not have piqued my interest if I decided to be a neurosurgeon and devote 30+ years of education. Even if they did, I wouldn’t have the time to explore them in depth and would be too worried about spending time with family and friends on the off chance I didn’t have work. Thus, I am very happy that I did not choose neurosurgery as a career and instead decided to devote my time being a researcher in 1-2 of these incredible disciplines! Who knows, I might save more lives with nanobots that I ever would by removing brain tumors by hand!