I struggled for a ridiculously long time coming up with appropriate terminology for this post. Have you noticed that the more important something is to you, the harder it is to find words for it? I’m trying to describe my new position as the OK-INBRE Biosciences Outreach Representative for Tulsa Community College and my reaction to it. If you’re scratching your head right now and thinking, “Uh, what exactly is that?” you understand why I need to explain this job. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. I’ve been in the job a whole week, and I’ve only gotten this question about 68 times now.
Here’s my elevator speech: “As Bioscience Outreach Representative, I will work to recruit and retain students in the biology, chemistry, and biotechnology programs at Tulsa Community College. As students advance in their programs, I will help them successfully apply for research programs, internships, scholarships, and transfer to four-year universities. My position is supported by OK-INBRE (Oklahoma Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence), which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.”
If all that sounds somewhat vague and unstructured, it’s supposed to. It means I have some freedom to design my work to fit the objectives, and that is genuinely exciting. I admit to some anxiety. I have a lot to learn, if I’m going to be a source of information for students about opportunities available to them. I’ve never been afraid to learn something new, however.
Best of all, the people I’ll be working for and with have been fantastic. I’ve never been surrounded by so many wonderful folks at one place. Dr. Diana Spencer, the Biotechnology Coordinator (and my boss) is a former high school science teacher as well, with a deep commitment to the success of her students and colleagues. She has been incredibly supportive. To top it off, the students I’ve met so far are motivated and dedicated to science. I’m thrilled and humbled to be a part of their journeys!
When I contemplated this blog post, I struggled over words to describe this new opportunity as the coming together of my varied skills with laboratory science, biomedical research, technology, writing about and teaching science, and mentoring students. I couldn’t have imagined a more fitting use for what has sometimes seemed unrelated experiences. I thought I could find the exact word to describe what this represents, but with more than one million words in the English language, (Really. I’m not kidding.) the lexicon is at least one word short.
Scribsciance – the merging of writing composition expertise and science knowledge into one set of job skills
Just so you know, these are the terms I considered and discarded:
- Synchronicity – This one works on some levels, as in seemingly unrelated events coming together at one time. It was also a pretty good 80s album: “Every Breath You Take” and so on.
- Confluence – I just like this word, don’t you? It rolls off the tongue very smoothly, but it primarily applies to rivers. I’m not a very good swimmer.
- Convergence – More apt, but I can’t help thinking of convergent plate boundaries. They can result in either mountain ranges or earthquakes—you pick. The Harmonic Convergence meditational events of 1987 and 2012, coinciding with total Solar System planet alignment is more intriguing, but a bit ethereal. Okay, kind of freaky.
- Chimera – I favored this one for a while because of the relation to genetics, but the Greek mythological fire-breathing creature with a lion’s head, goat’s body, and snake’s tail isn’t too pretty. Come to think of it, genetic chimeras aren’t all that attractive either.
- Mosaic – Reminiscent of fourth-grade art projects. Rose Windows. Notre Dame. Could be classy, but a little too general.
Do you see now why I had to create my own term? These are all perfectly good words, but they didn’t perfectly convey the concept. It’s my own fault for being both a science nerd and a word nerd; I’m terminally addicted to precision in practice, as well as terminology. It’s not all bad, though. That trait has served me well in all my former jobcarnations. See what I mean?
Merriam-Webster will definitely be hearing from me.