What you NEED to know to be a successful scientist

What are the hidden secrets to becoming a successful scientist?

Researchers of all levels weigh in to share the things they didn’t learn in science class… It’s common knowledge science classes are important. But, what do you NEED to know?

Being successful as a scientist, outside the classroom

#1 – Be able to work independently.

For Adrian Perez, Ph. D. Candidate and Behavioral Ecologist, this means an emphasis on time management. He recommends getting a handle on time management in college. However, don’t be discouraged if you struggle with it because there are many grad student scientists who are still struggling with time management.

For Dr. Sammy Davis, Ecologist, being able to work independently as a scientist also means being your own master. Be able to motivate yourself, console yourself, pick the pieces back up and keep going. Learn from how people may have helped and done things for you in the past to keep you going, because it’s all up to you now!

#2 Be able to collaborate

Dr. Isaac Ligocki, Behavioral Ecologist, adds in that science is getting more and more collaborative. In combination with being able to work independently and able to problem solve on your own, you’ll also need to effectively communicate with others and work as a team.

Let go of the idea of the lonely genius scientist in a lab coat, sitting in a lab, finding answers to the world’s big questions all alone image. As Dr. Burcin iutlu-Pakdil, Astrophysicist, explains, It’s not true. Science is a collaborative effort.

Like a lot of areas of interest these days, science requires knowing people and putting yourself out there often.

#3 Be your biggest cheerleader

Besides just being good at what you do, says Dr. Alex Jentsch, Nuclear Physicist, you need to be able to tell people you’re good at what you do. Being able to be your biggest cheerleader is very important for moving up the science food chain.

Dr. Joe Pfaller, Marine Biologist, notes this doesn’t come naturally to a lot of scientists, but it applies to many things. Whether it’s your graduate school application, a job interview, or a research grant proposal you will need to know how to effectively “toot your own horn”.

#4 Be able to handle rejection, criticism and curve balls

There will be lots of “No’s” in science. The good news is, according to Amelia Munson, Ph. D. Candidate and Behavioral Ecologist, that doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re doing is wrong. It may just mean you’re not the right fit, someone/something else was a better fit, or simply chance wasn’t in your favor. You have to keep going, even when you hear no.

Dr. Mike Gil, Marine Biologist, expands that you also need to become comfortable with criticism. Recognize that tactful criticism, can be an incredibly asset to you as a scientist. It can help you understand your weaknesses in your understanding of a concept, experimental design, theoretical model, etc. Criticism can save you loads of time and headache later! Many scientists learn to love helpful criticism.

You don’t know what’s going to be thrown at you in the field or lab… Dr. Jenan Kharbush, Chemical Oceanographer / Organic Geochemist, adds in that you need to know this, and be able to keep going! Believe in yourself. Believe you are a scientist.

The most important thing you need to know to be a successful scientist…

You can do this!

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