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Nick Edwards: Once A Scientist, Always a Scientist

Nick Edwards: Host of the Once A Scientist Podcast

Nick Edwards is our fearless leader here at Once A Scientist, and in that role he thought it was only fitting to be interviewed himself before putting fellow scientists in the hot seat. In this episode, Nick sits down with a very special guest host — his wife Kim — to tell us the story of his journey in science.

Nick starts off by telling us about his goals for the podcast (which you can read about here) before jumping into the heart of his life as a scientist. As most any working professional can attest, there’s really two ways to tell the story of your career: the short version, including the details of what you have done, and the much longer (often more exciting and informative) version, focusing on the twists and turns on the road to how you got into your current line of work. He treats us to both versions of his story in this episode.

The Short Version: A Career Overview

The short version of Nick’s career path seems pretty straightforward. He studied neuroscience as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University and then went on to pursue his PhD in a joint doctoral program between Brown University and the National Institutes of Health. The newly minted Dr. Edwards then went on to post-doc at the University of California, San Diego. During this time, he started getting interested in business strategy and decided that he wanted to give strategy consulting a shot. He and his family moved to Dallas so he could take a job as a consultant with Boston Consulting Group (BCG). He loved that job and the many things he learned there, but knew that he wanted to go back to California. After working at BCG for a little over a year, they moved back to San Diego where Nick now works at a major biotechnology firm, and started this podcast as a fun way to meet with other scientists and share their stories.

This at-a-glance view of Nick’s career paints a picture of a driven, intelligent, and successful neuroscientist who has followed a very clear and direct path to get where he is today. Nick is indeed a driven, intelligent, and successful neuroscientist — but that short version of his story belies the true nature of what that journey really looked like and how he got his start. 

The Long Version: How Did He Get Here?

Nick is not the person who always knew he wanted to be a neuroscientist. In fact, Nick describes his younger self as someone who had “zero ambition” except to surf. The concept of someone who has been published in high-impact journals like Nature Neuroscience and held such competitive jobs also self-describing as having once had “zero ambition” would likely surprise a lot of people. But this is the essence behind why Nick started this podcast in the first place. Society has a particular view of what a scientist looks like, but the truth is that a scientist can be born in any number of ways and end up doing an incredible variety of jobs — many of which don’t even require PPE.

You need to challenge yourself and make sure that you’re constantly learning.

Nick Edwards

Nick’s career journey has contained many different jobs and a shifting set of goals. “I think I told my mom one time that I wanted to be a whale,” Nick tells us (referring to his one-time consideration of becoming a marine biologist, though his team at the podcast prefers to take him literally). Asked if he would have pursued his career differently if given the opportunity to do it again, he says no; he likes that he’s had all of the unique experiences he regales us of in this episode. Over the course of the series, we’ll see that Nick isn’t alone among scientists in having had a career path that has evolved and changed over time. A unifying theme among Nick and the other scientists you’ll hear from in this show is the desire to keep pushing yourself. 

“There’s challenges in any field,” Nick explains, “and you need to challenge yourself, and make sure that you’re constantly learning.” That’s what really makes a scientist: not the job title or the lab coat, but the impulse to learn and keep learning. When you expand your idea of what a scientist can be, you open yourself up to a much bigger network of fascinating people — some of whom could even be your mentors one day. Nick can’t wait to share their stories with you.

Nick’s Favorite Books

Once a Scientist is made possible by support from our listeners! Each week, we ask our interviewee to tell us about their favorite books. If any of these reads catch your eye, you can support the show by using the links below to buy a copy for yourself!

Notes for this episode were written by Caroline Sferrazza.

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