By Rannva Danielsen,
Nothing beats a good conference. A good conference will inspire your research, pose questions you hadn’t thought of before, and, if you’re still a young scientist, teach you a few things. It’s amazing and I love conferences.
The ICES Annual Science Conference 2016 is one of my favourite conferences and of course did all of the above things for me. But then there’s the networking and this part I don’t love so much. Some people find it easy and fun. I’m not one of those people and a big conference like the ASC therefore becomes a bit of a challenge for me. The massive amount of people is one thing. The other thing is that the ICES community is quite a close knit community. It feels like everyone has known each other forever, and here I am, only one year into my PhD, and I don’t feel part of this community. Not only because I’m a young scientist but also because I’m not a biologist. I was an imposter at a biology conference, or at least that’s how I felt.
The thing is, I don’t know what I am. I have a BA in Journalism and a MS in Environment and Natural Resources with a specialty in economics. I get looks when I explain this to people (scientists and laymen alike) and I understand why. Even to me this is a weird combination and all I have to say about it is that life happens and interests change. But being surrounded by so many people who firmly identify as biologists and who are curious about “what I am” sparked a full-blown identity crisis for me because I don’t know what I am. That’s something I did not expect to take home from the ASC.
This particular identity crisis (I may or may not have had a few in the last year) started during a round of introductions after we had been put into groups for game night at the ASC. For most people introducing themselves is an easy task but not so much for me, for reasons which should be clear to you by now, dear reader. I stumbled a bit and said something like “it’s complicated”, as if I am a relationship status on Facebook, and confessed that I didn’t know what to call myself because I’m a bit of everything. “Well, that was pathetic, Rannvá,” I said to myself when I was done rambling.
And then it happened. It was just a single comment. Someone in the group (who I know but shall remain anonymous) turned to me and said: “Commit,” in a I’m-giving-you-solid-advice-right-now voice. And this person is totally right. I do need to commit to a title and for a lot of different reasons but most importantly, I think it will make my thesis work more focused if I know what I plan to call myself when I am done, even if I still identify as interdisciplinary.
At the same time, interdisciplinary is the future, as my wise boss Ólavur Gregersen once told me, and I think he is right. I recently had a discussion with my fellow SAFer Charlotte Weber about what we want to do after we have completed our PhDs. The seniors in SAF21 keep telling us it is important that we know, and for this purpose, we had both been looking at job adverts to see which skills are in demand. And guess what? Interdisciplinary doesn’t even begin to cover it. You basically need to be an octopus with an area of expertise attached to each arm and the ability to blend in to any environment you’re thrown into!
So yes, perhaps I do need to commit – “Hi, I’m Rannvá, I’m an environmental economist” (just trying it on for size) – but at the same time, I am interdisciplinary and that’s pretty cool.