Listen: Dana Murchison, Grad School, Science Museum discussed on Papa Phd Podcast
"Today were meeting Dana Murchison born and raised in Ottawa Ontario Canada. Dana has had to lifelong passions science and stories stories after studies that brought her from creative writing to neuroscience seasoned with a healthy dose of science outreach she chose to write up progress school work as a master's thesis and relocated to Northern Ontario to join the team at signs North Canada's second largest science center there there she developed hands on exhibits and interactive science programming about the human body and initiated and led science North Series of science cafe events bringing bringing experts and the public together for engaging discussion on a range of currency signs issues in two thousand fourteen two thousand fifteen. She was selected selected to participate in the northern leadership program a year long intensive leadership development course that accelerated interest in leading people and developing vision and strategy would you for science communication since two thousand seventeen. She has worked as head of programs at the Canadian Museum of Nature where she is responsible for the strategy vision and implementation of live interactive natural history programming designed to educate and inspire the museums school public and adult audiences. Dana lives in Ottawa with her husband a fellow Science Museum Geek anticipating their first child arrival any day now they've built up a series collection of SCIENC- board books already welcome to the podcast Dana. Thanks so much for having me so let you a little a a little bit more about yourself to the listeners. Now share absolutely what do you. WanNa know well. Maybe a how you know what the Path was from creative writing what studies you followed and how have gravitated to where you know to your Keret Cities Cher Cher yeah. That's an interesting story. I definitely had a hard time coming out of high school trying to figure out whether I want to pursue creative writing and English literature or whether I wanted to go into the sciences I've always been really passionate about both and had phenomenal teachers in high school on both sides and ultimately I think I decided that I was going going to go into studying science and then you know keep reading and writing and engaging with with that kind of part of my life on the side and I'm. I'm really glad that I did that had a fun time doing it. At McGill studying human audience for my Undergrad and then I have minor in English slits way still can keep engaged with that side of memory new you didn't you didn't let it go totally. That's that's really awesome. Actually I find that the system of majors and minors really really cool in that sense that that you can you know you. If you have a I love you can still keep it. Although you following something else in your in your major. Let's really awesome. I remember leaving an English literature class at one point in time and having to race up the hill strathcona anatomy so that I could go work at the anatomy lab. It was a little bit of a weird juxtaposition to traveling between two worlds kind of exactly excellent so well. Nother we another we know where where you come from an in how. Oh you you kind of get these two interests well into your your Grad School Studies the question the first question. I'd like to ask you who is How was it for you. You know a especially knowing that you then decided to write up your thesis and to then go into science outreach. How did the end you know. How was how was finishing your master's for you was was it an easy process says do. Was it easy to find the motivation to complete it. No it was it was really tricky that point in time I was I was very motivated to wrap it up and he says but the process of doing it. I found really really challenging. I after I finished my Undergrad. I went into Grad school and started doing research because I was just so so passionate about the development of the nervous system and one inch don't worry about it and and I was I was really excited to do that kind of work and partway through a I realized that it just was not for me in terms of the lifestyle and the day to day. I wasn't really that well-suited to bench research. and you know. I was still. I'm still fascinated by the subject it matter but I I realized that doing A. PhD was just not going to work for me. about two years in realized that three more years of that kind of uncertainty and and you know sometimes frustration in you know of having experiments offense they work sometimes they don't. I Rate I mean that's you know that's the way. Ah that science works. You know it's kind of one experiment at a time and why little discovery at a time and I'm so grateful that there are people who do that kind of work but I realized partway through that it was just not for me and that I was going to be really really hard pressed to kind of get it all the way to the finish line and so it was I actually actually remember. Pardon me the moment where I decided that I wasn't going to keep doing a PhD but I was. GonNa write up my masters. I was working at the Montreal children's library doing a science outreach after after school with kids in the community and on that particular day had brought in nanometers firm yeah I think from the GRANDPA zoo and they were doing a live program with a bunch of kids about APPs and kind of inner showing off some vampire bats listen. These kids were just so excited and so engaged and asking such interesting questions and you know and had a really tough day the bench and going there and just seeing seeing the joy and the excitement and the newseum. That was a moment where I was just like. I wonder if I could do this all the time and it felt like I'd be getting away with something. That was the moment I sure it was like. Could I actually just do this all the time. Could this be my job and then from that point on it was like okay. How do I pull this off and it was really really hard to kind of flip my mindset from I'm dropping hang out of my PhD to I'm completing my master's yet. You know the feeling failure was just so strong and leading people down around you. You know be at your supervisor etc.. That might expect you to add to. Oh absolutely who I guess but uh-huh I agree with you. It's a huge commitment. If if you're in a in that situation that you're doubting that it's really something for you so I think you you're a moment came at the right time. Yeah absolutely no I. I think it really did You know what I'm I'm really glad that I could have pushed pushed through and follow that instinct and just realized that it it was not gonNa work out and there was a better way for me but but yeah it was there's a lot of self doubt like in the process of writing thesis not about whether I was doing the right thing but about whether I would actually table to pull it off like would I be able to would I be able to walk out with my degree or was I. GonNa need to kind of walk with nothing to show for it and and yeah it was it was it was really hard to kind of reset my mindset and and and realized that it wasn't necessarily a failure it was like moving forward at a different way differently and and from we'll talk with and we'll hear more about you but you know and it was a success after all right in terms of your of your path that followed so just thinking about about the listeners the feeling I get from what you're saying is because you can you know you can start a masters and then just go through the motions and say well. The next logical step is going through to the. I feel that somehow what you're saying is that the transition between masters and PhD can be kind of checkpoint in biology right like like Mike. Does this checkpoint to okay at this point. I can evaluate whether I want to go on or whether I can close this chapter and you know go do something else that I love yeah. Absolutely I mean I I had always assumed like ever since I started studying science. I had assumed that I was going to get a PhD and that I was going to do my post doc doc and was gonNA run my own research program so there is no question in my mind personally about it like I had amazing mentors in kind of a different lands that I worked in and those people really you know really emphasized for me. How valuable that basic research was and so you know so for me. There is no question in my mind I I never thought of our kind of doing a masters and then doing impeach me was like yeah. I'm just starting my studies and I'm gonNA write my and that's GonNa be my doctorate so I hadn't considered that what is being a checkpoint that existed and so I'm kind of glad that glad that I wound up kind of having that moment of clarity as it were you know about two seniors in the process. I love the two said the something that I also identify with which is gratitude and actually admiration for people who do go through and that the research everyday to learn about diseases to just learn about the human body and and that every day they have a lifestyle. That's pretty hard and that that's very you know can be very fulfilling but that like you said also that you know just by design has a lot of frustration you know because for one positive experiment in how many did you have that that did not work. I'll absolutely louis absolutely I mean not just the experiments either the the challenges of kind of running your own lab running your own research program. Thank you constantly be hustling for funding and you know recruiting students. you know working for those publications continuously. It's you know and and keeping keeping that laser focus now. I know it's so important that people do that but I think one one of the things that I realized going through my master's. was that I am a generalist I am I love learning about kind of the breadth of scientific disciplines and being able to kind of learn a little bit about a lot and keep the public like I was. I was fascinated by the aggressive of nervous development and yet my project. was you know that's the way science works. It was so narrow in scope oh piano I was looking at the interaction of two different proteins at a very specific moment in time in a very specific nick model and I just wanted to be able to have a broader focus. You know. Some people really works for them to do that for me. It really didn't Um you know again. Everyone has a different you know different type of personality and you know. I think society needs different types of people in different types of positions and it's like is like you said it was not a failure. The switch that you did was just again. There was a checkpoint. You felt in yourself and tell me if I am understanding it writes the Felton yourself okay. This birth doesn't feel like it's something that I will thrive and be happy in and luckily you actually found your calling at the same time with without reach yeah absolutely there was something that I did kind of throat me studies you know when I was doing my Undergrad.."