Saturday, July 02, 2005

Random observation

I've noticed that when people ask what I do while making small talk, and I say I'm studying biology, they just nod their heads politely and say, "Oh, right." But if I say I'm studying neuroscience, they say, "Oh, wow! That's so cool!" or "That must be really hard!" or some combination of the two. (Sometimes people have even confused neuroscience and neurosurgery and thought that I'm a brain surgeon.) It seems strange to me that neuroscience should sound so much sexier than biology, since to they both describe what I do (neurobiology) equally accurately. Does anyone out there have (or get) the same reaction?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had a different, and perhaps more frustrating experience. I used to tell people that I am a psychologist. However, upon doing so, one of two things would happen immediately: 1.) A conversation about Freud (I like Freud, but I'm not that kind of psychologist), or 2.) A discussion of the emotional/mental problems of a "friend." So, I switched to calling myself a "cognitive psychologist," but since people tend not to know what that is, or think that it has something to do with cognitive therapy ("Really? How do you think Freudian psychoanalysis compares to cognitive therapy?"), that usually led to the same thing as simply calling myself a psychologist. So, I started calling myself a cognitive scientist. This has two advantages: 1.) No one knows what that is, and 2.) It doesn't include the word "psychology" in the name. However, all 3 describe what I do. 

Posted by Chris

7/03/2005 02:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually just say I'm a biologist, and most people leave it at that. If I say "molecular biologist", people seem to think it's cooler but they also think it means what Hollywood thinks it means. No, sorry, I can't clone you a dinosaur.

Back when I worked on HIV-1 replication, people seemed impressed by that. I'm about to start work on the transcription factor myc , so I can say I work in cancer research if I want a positive reaction. 

Posted by sennoma

7/03/2005 04:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris - that is frustrating! When I was in college I was a psychology major for a semester or two (with a view toward cognitive science), and my mom kept assuming that I was studying psychology in order to become a clinical psychologist / psychiatrist. It didn't seem to click that people might also be interested in how the mind works normally.

sennoma - maybe it's just that things sound cooler when they're more specific... 

Posted by Andrew

7/03/2005 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well...when I tell people that I study biology, I immediately get drawn into some kind of evolution or stem cell debate. Which may just be a factor of the Bible belt spot that I live in. Alas.

I'm afraid I'm not far enough along in my degree to have a specific area to cling to either. Maybe I should wear a pin? "Not trying to offend God--Yet"


Posted by Katie

7/18/2005 04:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when i tell people that i am a psychiatrist- neuropsychiatrist if i get to complete the sentence- the room clears. friends of my wife and children frequently ask them if i 'practice psychiatry on them'; and i often- this is not an exaggeration- get suspected of reading minds. now, neuroscience, that sounds like something out of science fiction. at the very least the neuroscientist ought to invent artificially intelligent devices that give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, resurrect the dead, and guaranty world peace. all in a day's work, eh?  

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7/19/2005 03:12:00 PM  
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