When you read several interviews posted on this site, i bet you would be more confused than you were before reading the interviews. Infact, there are several statements made in the interviews that say “i never knew what i wanted to do” . Needless to say, this is a problem that exists for every student leaving school or college.
So lets try to solve the issue with science. We will cover arts and other subjects in the following sections. If you try to breakdown science into broader categories (not based on subjects), they are as follows.
Science also has a lifecycle from when it begins to when it ends. Does that sound cryptic? So lets talk about the beginning of science. Everything in Science starts with a discovery. Discovery is gaining knowledge about a new natural phenomenon, something that has not been seen before.
1) Pure Science
Pure science is discovery and deals with core research on how things work. This covers the fundamental areas of Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. For eg studying and understanding how the Neurons in the human brain work is pure science. The goal is to understand how things work just for the knowledge. That is why it is called pure.
The next step in the lifecycle of science is when the results of Pure Science can be applied to address problems in the real world. This happens when a Discovery leads to an Invention, something concrete that can yield results. The Invention of the Electric Bulb was based on the Discovery of current. See the relationship? One Discovery could lead to many Inventions.
2) Applied Science
Invention or Applied science is about using the scientific knowledge gained in pure science to apply to a specific field of study, applying the knowledge of workings of the brain to solve problems in areas of Neuroscience or Robotics. Neuroscience relates to understanding workings of the Brain to cure Neurogenetic diseases while Robotics relates to training machines to think like humans.Since this is applied in specific areas it is called applied science. However this is still research focused and academic.
These are fundamentally 2 areas where students can pursue research. Pure science is a bit abstract while applied science is lot more concrete where you are more focused on the problems you are trying to address. You can choose one of these based on your interests.
As the Invention begins to make business sense, companies want to commercialise it. So they create unique processes that can make the product on an industrial scale so they can sell and make profits. These unique processes constitute technology. For eg; a technology to manufacture a new drug based on an Invention can be patented for protection against piracy. When Insulin was invented, the pharma company that funded the invention patented the technology to manufacture Insulin.
Technology is the practical application of applied science. Applied science is still theoretical and research oriented. Applied science becomes a technology when it can be applied in the industry or business to solve practical problems. For eg; Artificial Intelligence (AI), based on workings of the brain, is a technology that is addressing the challenges that every industry is facing today. Computer based chess is an example of AI technology being used in Chess to compete against human players. Similarly several new medicines that cure Alzheimers Disease (Brain disease) based on technologies that improve the life of neurons in the Brain.
And finally when the technology is used to manufacture products like cars, machines, electronics etc out of an assembly line, this is called Engineering. Engineers are involved in building the final product based on specifications to address consumer demand.
Engineering is an extension of technology and deals with manufacturing products based on the technology which is based on applied science. Robots are engineered based on Robotics technology which based on the understanding of the Human Brain.
In addition to the above areas, there are a few other areas where Science professionals make a profound impact – Science Communication and Science Policy.
Science Communication involves the breaking down the complexities of Science in very simple terms for the understanding of the common man. This is very important for our society to assimilate the benefits of Science. For eg; without Science Communication we would not know the benefits of Renewable Energy. The benefits will remain in the researcher’s lab. So Science Communicators are professionals who can explain complex concepts in Science to the common man. This is also called Science Journalism
Science Policy culminates in the end of the Science lifecycle when the output of research and engineering, in some cases, becomes a policy mandated by the government for common good. For eg; a technology that can produce Electricity from Nuclear Energy commercially based on an Invention can then be mandated as a policy by the government to completely ban fossil fuels from being used. Science Policy professionals work with government to explain the benefits of specific Science policy implementation and help them make policy decisions.
So for students unclear about what they want to do in science, here are the different options
1) Pure Science – Research and Knowledge
2) Applied Science – Focused research to solve specific problems
3) Science Communication – Communicating Scientific Research through stories to the common man
4) Technology – Practical applications of research in Industry
5) Patent/Intellectual Property – Protecting Invention
6) Engineering – Building products based on technology
7) Science Policy – Communicating benefits of Science to government
Once you understand the above it becomes easy choosing your careers based on your interest.