My brother in law, Doug, teaches at a middle school west of Philadelphia. For years, he’s been suggesting that I would have fun presenting at their career day. This year I had a tiny bit of space in my schedule, so I snuck down and back on the Acela. I spent the morning talking to five different groups of 6th through 8th graders. Each group had me for about half an hour.
The kids were great, they asked all sorts of fun questions. Arguably the best question was “what is your IQ?” (Um, I don’t know?). Every session had at least one precocious one with the persistent and detailed questions. The staff were totally accommodating, and I had a great time. Of course, I was on the schedule as “Dr.”, and apparently I’m a Geneticist and an Author now. I did my best to straighten that out – and to convey a couple of simple messages to the kids:
* All human beings are related to each other. This was met with cries of “EEEW!”
* Computer programming is a decent job skill, but you still have to decide what to build.
* Science changes rapidly, so it’s a good idea to focus your education on the basics: Math, science, critical thinking, and to continually study and read up on what’s new.
* All life on earth is related, in exactly the same way that all humans are related to each other (no “eew,” but there were some very thoughtful looks).
* It’s possible (and a good idea) to aim for happiness in your job as well as a stable income.
* Personal genomics is to the point where you can fill a plastic tube with spit, (“EEEW!”), drop it in the mail, and look on a website a few weeks later to see the where your father and mother’s families were probably from.