You’ve chosen a career in science and gone off to graduate school because you love doing it. For you, lab is home. You are so used to wearing your lab coat all the time that when you go to the kitchen to boil water for your coffee, you can’t do it without wearing an apron!
At times, you wonder why you did not chose to become a writer like that old friend from school or a musician like your roommate. You know that you can turn into “The Mask” if you really want to and you’re more than just the Stanley Ipkiss that the world thinks you are. You’ve chosen to be a scientist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a violinist too. Below are some reasons why I think you should continue to dedicate time for your extra-curricular activities (or develop a secondary interest if you don’t have a serious one yet) despite having a demanding scientific career.
Hobbies Complete You as a Person
Remember those few lines in your personal statement in which you talked about all the things you did apart from academics? You might have written about how you captained the soccer team at college, or how you entertained a huge audience in a night club with your guitar. Why did you write about it in your personal statement? Because it makes you who you are. So finding time to do it is very important. It helps you build and prune your personality lifelong. You did not put so much effort and time into those activities during earlier days of your life just to make your CV look good. You did it because you also loved doing it. So continue doing it.
Hobbies can be a Welcome Distraction
Things never happen the way you expect them to happen. Failed experiments are not uncommon in science. But to figure out what’s gone wrong, you need to have a clear head. Not being disappointed and being able to think clearly under such demanding situations is an attribute every young researcher needs to develop. The best rescue in such a situation could be to turn your focus towards something else that you love doing. When you are rejuvenated, you can come back and figure out why that gene cloning experiment never worked.
Hobbies Help you Manage Time Well and Increase Productivity
Let’s say you are a jazz musician and you have a performance at 7 in the evening. But you have a 10 hr experiment that needs to be done on the same day. With the jazz concert, you will surely have to start in the lab before 8 AM and definitely finish before 6 PM. You cannot procrastinate, you cannot start late or finish late. You will have to be on time for everything. This might sound very ideal, but it is difficult to manage. At the same time, it is not impossible. It does require a lot of planning, stamina, and effort to make both things happen but in the end you are a hundred fold more productive.
Hobbies can Help Stimulate New Ideas
When you are seriously involved in more than one thing and you put your heart into both, you tend to recognize similarities even between seemingly different fields. Your brain automatically starts exploring new ideas that involve your two different areas of interest. It also gives you an outside perspective that can help you develop and grow in both areas.
Hobbies can Make you Popular
I’m not saying you’re going to be on TV soon. But you’ll not be that monomaniacal grad student who stays over in lab all night. Instead, you might be identified and introduced as that one person in the lab who is also a columnist in the local science weekly. So, if you’re engaged in multiple activities, you’ll make new acquaintances, and gain recognition. This could enrich your career in science greatly since you will get the chance to expand your scientific network. So, make the best out of your time in lab, but carve out some time for the things you love doing outside the lab. Scientists can be people persons!