Step 2: Read something not in the curriculum

Reading curriculum is a great way of acquiring basic knowledge of fields, famous research, and classic theories… But its hard to shake the “memorize-or-bust” feeling that follows these books, and the authors often do not have time to explore the sidelines and front lines of any given sub-field.

It’s easy, very easy, to get caught up in the course at hand, and deny yourself the time to explore literature outside of the curriculum. Or maybe the thought doesn’t tempt you at all. But whenever I reflect on this, I find the pleasure of actively seeking out interesting topics to be worth it every time. If its relevant to a particular course, it always makes the mandatory reading easier (even if you fall behind a couple of chapters). But more importantly, whatever field you’ll devote your time to in the future should be one you think is exiting and want to dive into, beyond what is required for basic understanding. The topics should drag you in and the research embrace you. Reading about science for pleasures sake is where inspiration begins and great ideas come from. If good science is a work of art, which I happen to think it is, all artists can benefit from studying the works of others.

Whenever I have set aside time for reading science for fun it has helped shape my understanding of the courses I take, the topics I want to pursue, and the science I would one day like to be doing. The last points are something rarely made time for in a normal bachelor course. It is understandably hard to find the time. And it is by no means a smart thing to sacrifice all free-time for extracurricular reading if it’s not pleasurable. And so… maybe some work-hours happens to disappear from the schedule. Maybe it’s worth the risk of not being completely up to speed on the actual curriculum. I’ll not make any bold claims, but worst case scenario: you fall behind some chapters on the curriculum and waste some days away. More often than not though, reading science on your own accord can be useful in a surprising number of ways.

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