Six Signs You Were Born to be a Scientist

Scenes from the NYU Abu Dhabi's Experimental Research Building (ERB) labs.

For some of us, it takes several years (sometimes decades) to figure out what we love to do and build a career around it. Majors change, jobs are won and lost, and career paths often go sideways. But for others, like NYU Abu Dhabi science majors Priyanka Lakhiani and Alvaro Yanez, passions bubble to the surface a lot sooner.

"I remember in 7th grade, general sciences was split into the mysteries of biology, the intricacies of chemistry and the perfection of physics," said Yanez, a biology major from Peru. "This moment — when my perception of the world begun making mysterious, intricate and perfect sense — is when I got excited by science."

Lakhiani was hooked by high school science classes that explored the intricacies of biological process. "They were complex but fascinating and introduced me to an infinite expanse of knowledge to be unearthed."

Is a career in science also in your DNA? Here are six signs you might be cut out for life in a lab coat.

1. You wanted to be a biologist before you could spell biology.

PL: I first remember getting excited about science in primary school when we were assigned a research project on our favorite animal. Somewhere during tireless hours spent reading about elephants, a passion for science — and biology in particular — was born. I was won over by the prospects of limitless learning. For someone so easily distracted and bored, science offered the perfect solution to an insatiable curiosity. It dangled the possibility of the answers to the entire Universe in front of my eager eyes.

2. You're obsessed with problem solving.

AY: I'm most interested in understanding the ‘black box’ or the brain, as we call it. It is admiringly complex. It has a finite space but an infinite power. It is our brains trying to understand themselves. There is a unique beauty to that which we cannot see inside this black box.

PL: I was drawn to biology because it offered a unique opportunity to approach the extremities of intellectual inquiry and experimentation. The field of genetics particularly fascinates me. It has been advancing exponentially and is considered the key to many medical and evolutionary puzzles.

3. You think high school science trips are better than prom.

AY: My school in Peru organized a trip to the Amazon rainforest where we carried out daily experiments on biodiversity, ecology and conservation, and biochemistry. I vividly remember being in the heart of the Amazon, very tired, but proud of the difficulty of practical work.

4. You have science heroes.

PL: Shinya Yamanaka, a Japanese stem cell researcher, is someone I admire immensely because his Nobel Prize Lecture is what initially interested me in genetic research. His research in reprogramming mature cells is extraordinary. James Watson is another hero; the fruits of his determination and relentless curiosity are incredibly inspiring for a stressed freshman. Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan are other scientists who I respect and think of very highly.

AY: Stephen Hawking. Without a doubt it's Stephen Hawking. He is a role model of resilience, passion and intellect.

5. You binge watch the Discovery Channel.

AY: I enjoy watching TED Talks about innovative scientific research and experiences in the field of medicine. It constantly reminds me of the passion and curiosity that drew me into the sciences in the first place.

PL: I like to read autobiographies of famous scientists because they reveal a personal and relatable side to science that research journals usually ignore.

6. You know that science is never easy and that's ok.

AL: For me, the hardest part about studying science is twisting your mind around counterintuitive concepts. You constantly have to remind yourself that what we hear, see, taste, touch and smell does not grasp all the phenomena that exist out there, which is a little bit annoying if you are curious.

PY: While studying science, it is sometimes difficult to come to terms with the impossibility of one final solution. It is easy to lose inspiration without a finish line in sight. Solutions are only ever followed by more questions, which could get frustrating considering the sheer effort required for each one. However, the possibility of an inexhaustible reservoir of riddles to decipher is also the most thrilling part of being a scientist.