My life has so far been shaped by me being wrong. Really, really wrong.

From as far back as I can remember, I was convinced I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, I loved learning, and I didn’t want to interact with people much. Being a veterinarian was the perfect solution. I was going to save animals, I was going to work with animals all day every day, and I was going to continue to learn throughout my life. That was my dream. I had decided to go to a medicine-based high school to fulfill that dream. I took latin so as to help me with medical terminology. Being a veterinarian was my driving force.

That is, until I shadowed a veterinarian at the age of 16. To my horror, I saw that a large part of being a veterinarian was talking to the people who owned the animals. Over the several weeks I spent shadowing, I came to realize that taking care of the person that came with the animal was part of the job. While I knew beforehand that I wouldn’t be playing with animals, all of this talking was not what I wanted to do. It was the opposite of what I wanted to do. I hated talking to people. My dream was shattered, leaving me floating aimlessly.

Basing my dreams on what I thought veterinarians did was my first big wrong.

It did not take me long to start my second big wrong.

The same year that my veterinarian dream died, I learned about HIV and AIDS in my high school biology class. Two things about this disease struck me: One was how horrible it was for those infected, and the second was how interesting the actual virus was. This lesson sparked my interest in virology (the study of viruses), immunology (the study of the immune system), and scientific research. I realized I loved learning about this virus. I wanted to understand how it worked, at a molecular level.

And like that, I had found my tether, a new dream. I was going to be a scientist and study HIV. It seemed like the most efficient way to accomplish my goals: Help others, continue to learn new things every day, and not have to talk to people. Perfect!

My image of scientists up until I was actually a PhD student was a bunch of anti-social people, like me, who would need to do minimal talking and interaction with others. I finished my undergraduate degree and started to fulfill my dream, starting as an immunology PhD candidate at the University of Rochester.

Where I found out I was wrong. Again.

It turns out, scientists talk all of the time. They network constantly. They give talks on their research, and even make posters! I expected to be in a laboratory, working alone with people equally as taciturn as me. Instead, in addition to doing research, I was standing in front of all of my professors and fellow students giving presentations on my work, going to conferences and talking with so many people, and giving presentations for my lab’s weekly meeting.

That was my second big wrong, strikingly similar to the first. Basing my dream on how I thought scientists acted.

Again, my vision of my future was dashed. I had to give talks and network, mentor others, and talk all of the time. These were all of the things I hated, dreaded, and feared.

Or what I thought I hated.

I stomped my feet and begrudgingly gave talks. But a realization crept up. Slowly it dawned on me that scientists who work in isolation, who don’t communicate their science, may as well be doing nothing at all. Without communicating our findings to each other, the work is as good as never having been done at all. Writing scientific papers for peer-reviewed journals can only accomplish so much. Conversations, written and verbal, enable an exchange of ideas instead of just throwing information out into the void.

At the same time, I was realizing something else. I like science writing more than I like bench work. I do, in fact, like communicating with others. I might not like speaking as much, but I certainly like to write.

I was, for a third time, wrong.

This time, it was because I didn’t think broadly enough.  I did like “talking” – just on paper.

While coming to terms with my newfound goal of becoming a science writer, I realized that there was a divide between scientists and people outside of the scientific community. It was insidious, forming without my noticing, made from preconceptions and stereotypes of both the public and scientists. There are so many technical terms used in scientific fields that science can feel like another language.

On one hand, scientists often struggle to communicate their work in non-specialized terms. On the other hand, scientists who explain topics using complicated terms alienate most readers, many of whom attribute their inability to understand the scientist to some inherent difference in intelligence rather than simply a difference in language. I think that’s part of why people say they are not “smart enough” for science – we accidentally portray science, and in turn scientists, as some otherworldly complicated thing.

But, I can do something about this. I can humanize scientists by writing from both sides. I can write as a scientist, but also as a normal barely-functioning person. Maybe I can tell people stories of what scientists actually do (it is a lot less Star-Trek than you’d hope and a lot more MacGyver than I ever expected). The goal of my blog is to talk science, increase science literacy, but mostly to narrow the divide formed by poor communication.

The point of this blog.

So, I’ve joined LifeOmic as a guest blogger. My LIFE Apps blog will feature explanations of the who, what, when, where and why of immunological responses and diseases, with intermittent slice-of-life posts from a science researcher/PhD candidate (me)! I aim to use  this medium to demystify science, how it is done, what the current knowledge is, and what exactly that means (or doesn’t mean).

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals and helping them was my dream. Then I wanted to be a scientist, reading and working alone. Now, I want to be a Science Writer, communicating really cool things to people.

But I can’t help wondering, what will my next big wrong will be?