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Is it possible to pursue neuroscience and writing at the same time? Or is it too much

  1. Jun 18, 2012 #1
    Hey I am currently in the 12th Standard and want to, become a neuroscientist as well as a writer, however until recently I was thinking about writing later in life(like in my 50s). But recently I have come across various people advising me of the low pay of a neuroscientist, and also with the economic crisis, there maybe further pull out of funding from neuroscience research which may even render me futureless....So I was thinking about earning my writing degrees as well in case such a thing happens to the neuroscience career. And I know there is also a huge chance of failure in writing, but Il think about that later. However I am still giving neuroscience the centre stage at the moment. So I know I have to get my undergrad then Phd followed by a "postdoctoral" fellowship for neuroscience. Lets say it takes 6 years to do all this. Now can I still finish bachelor's degree in English and Master of Fine Arts in Writing within these six years??? Or will it be too much off a task to handle? (although the neuroscience degrees are gonna be hard, I have no idea of the difficulty level of the writing degrees). If this is possible can you suggest some good colleges in the US where both such courses are available??
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  3. Jun 18, 2012 #2


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    Re: Is it possible to pursue neuroscience and writing at the same time? Or is it too

    Hey mutineer123 and welcome to the forums.

    I thought I'd just share a few things about writing (I'm not a writer, so just take from it what you will).

    I have the impression that the catalyst for a good writer is being exposed to a lot of conflict. Conflict and how people react to it is one of the things that makes a good story, and from observing the movies and shows I've previously watched, they all seem to be based on conflict.

    What this has to do with writing IMO boils down to this: get yourself in situations with conflicts (hopefully as an observer, but I guess you could participate if you wanted to) and try and get to observe many different kinds of conflicts.

    This translates into getting around a lot of different kinds of people and understanding the conflicts across the board. This in turn will lead you to be able to construct the kinds of dynamics of a story and think of plots that are interesting and important. Keep all of these things in your mind when you observe the world and I'm sure you'll get ample opportunities for great stories whether fictional or non-fictional.

    Human beings are quite a bunch with the extremes of personalities and behaviours so you certainly won't be short of ideas :).

    With the above said in mind, also realize that you don't have to major in arts to be a writer. As mentioned above, there are many different sources and inspirations for writing some really great thought-provoking material that is interesting and really resonates with people in all of the emotional spectrum.

    As an example, Mike Judge did a physics degree:


    Learning how to write IMO can be done on your own and can be done (like nearly everything else) through the direction of someone more experienced that is not necessarily at a university.

    So what you could do is do a degree on what you would really enjoy (something related to neuroscience) and then let life take you where it goes and always keep observing things carefully on the way. Write notes down if you have to about your experiences and keep a diary: this will help you develop an ability to clarify your thoughts and improve in the process and it will also force you to analyze things in depth which is what you will need to do as a writer.

    Good luck!
  4. Jun 18, 2012 #3


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    Re: Is it possible to pursue neuroscience and writing at the same time? Or is it too

    I'm not sure where you are, or if I am misinterpreting what you mean in the bolded sentence in the quote, but do you really expect to be able to finish a bachelor's, Ph.D., and a postdoctoral stint in six years where you are? Even in Britain, where the Ph.D. lengths are shorter than the U.S., I doubt you could finish undergrad+Ph.D. in six years. Perhaps just barely. I'm not really familiar with the European system. You certainly couldn't do that in North America. The Ph.D. alone could take you six years. Add in a writing degree, and I'm almost certain you can't do it in such a short time.

    That said, why do you even need a writing degree? You could certainly double-major in neuroscience and english/writing in undergrad if you really want. That might increase your workload and how long it takes you to graduate, but you could do it. I don't, however, see any point in getting both a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and a Master's in writing. I don't think the Master's in writing will give you any great advantage. You will have to develop technical writing skills during a Ph.D., so if your goal is to become, say, a science journalist or technical writer, you should be picking those skills up from the Ph.D. itself. Even if you wanted to become a novelist or write comedy, you don't really need a writing degree, you just need to be able to write well. It's far more important that you practice writing than that you have a degree in writing. Some of the writers for the show Futurama had advanced science degrees, but no writing degrees. Ken Keeler, got his Ph.D. in Math. David X. Cohen, got his B.Sc in physics and MS in computer science. J. Stewart Burns had an MS in math.

    Also, Mayim Bialik, who plays the neuroscientist Amy on the show The Big Bang Theory, actually has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She took a break from acting to get it, it looks like.

    The point is, you may not be able to do all of these things as quickly as you might like, but it is certainly possible to get a Ph.D. and still become a writer, even without a Master's in writing. Like I said, I'd wager that writing lots and lots is going to be more beneficial to you than having a degree in writing. You will be doing a lot of writing during a Ph.D., anyways, should you ultimately choose to pursue that path.
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