In a couple of months, my age will be divisible by 31 (no, I won't be 62 years old, nor 124). Does this level of senectitude give me permission to muse about having become an "old scientist?" What do you think?
Assuming it’s OK, let me first share a few facts. I retired in 1995 from having been an active teacher, researcher, and academic administrator at Tufts Medical School in Boston. For personal reasons, I then moved to San Diego, where I had a few slim academic contacts. In time, I made valuable connections at several local institutions, chiefly San Diego State University and the University of California at San Diego. I was appointed adjunct professor at both. In time, I participated more and more in seminars, conferences, and giving an occasional lecture. And about 15 years ago, I started this blog, and later joined a podcast, This Week in Microbiology. Both are multiauthored, with wonderful friends. So, you could say, "I'm still in Science.”
What's it like? Here is one big difference with the past. In the old days, when I used to read an article, there was a good chance that I recognized the name of one or more of the authors, usually senior ones. This allowed me to cubbyhole the work in its proper category, which helped me to remember it. No longer. Nowadays, I seldom recognize the names of the authors, thus am deprived of such correlations. Of course. this saddens me because it points to the unhappy fact that many of the people I knew have "passed away" (to use the language of the obituaries in the paper, where nobody dies, they just pass away).
I habitually peruse the tables of content of some two dozen journals. Although denied of a valuable tool, I can still categorize what I read. But my categorizing is done differently. I no longer look for "what's important." I leave that to others. Instead, I look for pieces that are blogworthy, that is, usable in our blog or podcast. Ours are not news sites but rather, places where we highlight exciting, and unusual stories about microbes and their world. Guess what, I feel good doing this.
In a recent issue of Nature, I read an article entitled: Active retirement keeps me involved in science and helps others" by JKV Reichard. See here. It's worth reading.