Being a Schrödinger Scholar

Who is a Schrödinger Scholar? If you have not heard of this term before, do not worry, because I am pretty sure I just made it up. But, before I begin my restrained ramblings on this ludicrous, yet meaningful, notion, allow me to take a moment and brief on what the Nobel Prize-winning physicist has to do with my identity as a scholar. 

Many of us are aware of Erwin Schrödinger and his thought experiment, which he devised to explain the problem with relating quantum mechanics to everyday objects. Using the thought experiment, he attempted to explain the paradox of a state called quantum superposition. But, the physics is not of importance here. What is important is the thought experiment itself, starting with the following lines from Wikipedia:

Schrodinger's Cat: Wanted Dead and Alive

In simple terms, Schrödinger stated that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat (a radioactive atom) in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was (in a sense) both “dead and alive”.

The beauty of this thought experiment is that it is often also used to represent how scientific theory works. A scientific theory is neither right nor wrong until it can be tested and proved. The act of extending Schrödinger’s thought experiment to explain scientific theory is, to me, spectacular in itself. Given my admiration, lately, I have been fixating over this idea. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me how it is also a complex representation of human identity. 

From past one year, while working on my dissertation, I have been thinking (more than usual) about my identity as a researcher and the influence of being a researcher on my identity. Both are different in some sense, yet spin like pieces of yin and yang hovering in the abyss of eternal space. My struggle with defining myself is rooted in the intersectionality of the different, and conflicting, components of my identity that shape how I think about research and where I position myself (shoutout to Lynette Guzman, Cassie Brownell, and Elise Dixon for pushing me to think about this).

My struggle became real when I found myself in an uncomfortable position of explaining myself to other people. The paradoxical nature of my identity as a scholar was looking at me in the eyes. When I met researchers from different areas of educational research, everywhere I went, I was treated like an outsider. Being a literacies researcher working on (and studying) educational technology, who values qualitative research but comes from a quantitative background, and is obsessed with humanities and language arts but sees science as a way of knowing the world, depending on who I was talking to, I was being perceived as an outsider. 

The struggle of belongingness turned up a notch when I started to prepare my profile for future job applications. “How do I portray myself?” It is like choosing a part of you and leaving the rest behind. Why do I have to choose? As I strived to frame myself as a scholar, Schrödinger appeared to me in a dream (well, not really). I realized that my identity was not in conflict. Rather it was the act of observation of my words that enforced labels on me. Just like Schrödinger’s Cat, other people’s observation of my words, sometimes, portrayed me an outsider to them. So, I used the very words that were deceiving me to create my own thought experiment and better explain how I see myself:

My identity is, too, like Schrödinger’s Cat.
I am a qualitative and a quantitative scholar, at the same time.
I am an ed tech and an ed psych student, at the same time.
I am a social justice advocate and cautious of my assumptions, at the same time.
I am a liberal and respect conservatism, at the same time.
I am social and alone, at the same time.
I am a scientist and an artist, at the same time.
I am rational and emotional, at the same time.
I am patriotic about India and anti-national, at the same time.
I am everything and I am nothing, at the same time.
I am a Schrödinger Scholar. And you can be too, at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Being a Schrödinger Scholar”

  1. Wow. This explains a ton of why I have found myself connected to you in digital spaces. You’re a polymath and I respect that so much.

    It is wholly unsurprising to me that the initial glue between you and I was Punya. We need to meet one day and chat for hours over drinks…

    1. Sean,

      Thank you for such kind words. I have always admired your thoughts and share-outs on social media, too. I would love to chat more on how you are thinking about these things.


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