Today's dilemma: Do I want my future research/career to have a human component? Specifically, should I do an MPhil in Quaternary Science or an MPhil by research thesis at Cambridge?
Do I want to study the Earth, just the Earth, and work on things like paleoclimate reconstruction? Understanding the Earth system ... past, present, and perhaps future?
Or, do I want my work to bridge the divide between science and policy? To include the human factor in the equation, and do work that has a more direct impact on people's relationship with the environment?
In short, do I want to go the hard-core science track or the more political environmental policy track? Can I do both?
I've just been offered a full scholarship to Cambridge University next year. For the past few days I have been absolutely over the moon with happiness (although the scholarship doesn't mean I am officially admitted to the University yet ... it's a confusing proecess). I applied for an MPhil in Quaternary Science (like a masters degree) in the Geography department, but the Cambridge professors I have been emailing with are encouraging me to switch to the MPhil by Research thesis option, offered in the Earth Sciences department.
I have a technical, scientific background, and already have some experience with research. One prof suggested to me that the QS courses would be a review for me, and that working on a research thesis would teach me much more.
On one hand, I love working on my senior thesis project. I learn more figuring things out in my lab and talking with my advisor than I do in class. I think doing a more intense research project at Cambridge would give me lots of great technical skills and experience ... maybe even produce a paper. On the other hand, I want to take advantage of the classes they offer, to learn about Quaternary Science from a different point of view (that of a geographer's?), to interact with more students, etc. Some profs I've talked to think that geography is "touchy-feely" ... but I think that the human factor is crucial to any modern climate/environmental work, and is fascinating in its own right. It all comes down to: do I want to spend time in the Earth Sciences dept. or the Geography dept.? I don't know much about how they are different at Cambridge, so now I am trying to do some research ... to find out what kinds of papers they are publishing, and figuring out which is a better fit for me. The problem is ... to figure out where is best for me, I need to know what my goals are.
More to come on this later ...