Elephants rarely get cancer: less than 5% of captive elephants die of cancer, compared to 20% of humans. Elephant genomes have at least 20 copies of the tumour suppressor, p53, which may explain their low cancer rates relative to humans, who have only one copy.
Having studied Natural Sciences as an undergrad, and then done a PhD in Quantum Physics, it may seem that my current job as a Strategy Consultant, working with businesses around the world, is a step in a completely different direction. In fact, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t rely on the skills I developed as a scientist, and those skills make me much better at my job. Companies come to my firm with problems – they want to know what new products to develop, what direction to take their company in, or how they can change the way they do things to work more efficiently. All companies work in very different ways, and the first thing you need to do is to get a really good understanding of what they do, how they do it, and the dynamics of the market they operate in – to do this well, you need to have an inquiring mind, and be able to ask the right questions in order to get all the information you need. It’s exactly the same as getting to the bottom of a scientific problem - using logic and a set of rules to pinpoint what the important factors are before you go about solving the problem. Then, in forming a solution, you need to be both analytical and creative to get to the right answer that will really help the client. Again, those are both vital elements of how you work as a scientist – and it’s definitely not just about the analysis; science teaches you to be innovative, and look at the world in a different way.
Studying science opens so many doors – when I decided to move outside of academia, the question wasn’t ‘what can I do?’, it was ‘is there anything I can’t do now?’.
The possibilities are endless – last year, I travelled to Milan, Paris, New York, Miami, Mumbai and Dubai to work on fascinating business problems; my sister did a degree in Marine Biology, and is about to start work with the BBC producing wildlife documentaries; my mum studied Chemistry and then became a lawyer, working with fashion designers around the world to help them ensure that their designs don’t get copied; one of my best friends is in Boston where she’s helping to build a new type of particle detector which will be used at CERN at the very cutting edge of science. Each one of us uses the skills we developed during our degrees every day, in a hundred different ways, and each one of us appreciates the wealth of opportunities we’ve opened up through studying science.
Wordcloud from Purdue University, College of Science