Man, this and your question to @swamidass (the research do-over) are very thought-provoking for me today. Thanks for that!
I am sort of doing it the other way around a little bit. My interest has always been in basic science but in the last couple years I have been thinking more about “science in service to the world”. In other words, what if I could both do something because it was beautiful and interesting in it’s own right, but also impactful outside of my own interests? I believe that service part comes from my faith, and wanting to better the world. It doesn’t change how I do science, but I guess it does change the questions and purpose behind it a bit. I don’t think that’s a bad thing for me.
I’ve been primarily a teaching professor for the last 8 years at a liberal arts college and likely won’t do significant levels of research in my career, but I still try to do a bit here and there. Peaceful Science has been a big part of my “do-over” and I’ve been studying a lot more about population genetics, genetics in general, and human origins. @swamidass really challenged me to consider the question “what does it mean to be human?” I’m also much more into biophysics than I used to be, I think as a blend of my interests (chemistry, physics, genetics, data science) rather than picking focusing on just one.