'Any career starts with a decision' was the best catchword I could come up with that day. I was not too chuffed about my stroke of inspiration, but as it turned out this statement would be the exact description of how my own career path would develop later on.
I, along with 130 other participants, had been asked during the 2004 GeNeYouS symposium to express in a few words what it meant to us to be young scientists in the field of genomics. The most striking, controversial or funny statements would be used to kick off a forum where we would discuss our expectations from GeNeYouS as well as the achievements of the network. GeNeYouS, the Genomics Network for Young Scientists was set up to enhance interactions between young genomics scientists in The Netherlands, so they can help each other, both in the lab and in their career.
I have been involved with GeNeYouS since its inception in 2003, which also coincided with the end of my Masters studies in animal breeding and genetics. Since then I have been volunteering as head of GeNeYouS' Internet and PR committee, which meant that I was in charge of all outreach activities, including congress representation, newsletters and press releases.
The next step I wanted to take after graduating was to do a PhD. While I was training as a quantitative geneticist, the molecular, no-nonsense part of genetics got more and more of my interest. So I had determined to bring them together in a PhD, as well as yet another great interest of mine: horses. But even though there is a lot of money in the world of horses, horse people are not very eager to spend it on a four-year research project. While searching for funding I took the opportunity to develop courses and supervise students at the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group at Wageningen University. Nevertheless, one year into my teaching job at the university, I decided to abandon the bench side of science.
However the lack of funding was not the main reason behind my choice. While looking for hard cash, I started thinking seriously about why I wanted to do a PhD so badly. Funny enough, I came to the conclusion that it was not the PhD itself that would give me the satisfaction I was seeking. After all, I wasn't so sure about spending whole days behind the bench or being locked in an office for four years. What really motivated me to do a PhD was to get out there and share my results with others. Talking and writing about science - or better, the world of science - was exactly what I had been doing as PR manager for GeNeYouS, and this is also what I will now be doing as the Netherlands Editor of Science's Next Wave.
My decision to leave the bench felt daunting at the time, but I now realise it was a natural progression from an earlier, more trivial step - getting involved with GeNeYouS. I must say, it makes life a lot easier to put your decisions into perspective, in that they are less likely to keep you awake at night. Now, I am sure there are a lot of young scientists out there who are, or will be wondering what career path is right for them. Some will choose to focus on a career in research, some will leave science altogether and most will do go for a career in between. As Science's Next Wave's Netherlands Editor, I will do my best to make your life easier and will support you whatever career path you will choose to follow.