Thursday, November 29, 2007

On being a scientist

Ages ago I told one of my PhD supervisors I wanted to be a scientist - that was why I was doing a PhD. He asked me what I thought that meant. This is a serious question to me as I failed at a PhD once before and had to settle with (in the opinion of one examiner a rather poor) MSc.

There is more than pride or ego at stake here. Always loving the natural world I naturally (pun intended) wanted to study it. Here is a stab at some qualities that come to mind.

  1. Curiosity - why is not a question only for 3-4 year olds!
  2. Determination - just one bloody more go at that equation/code.
  3. Imagination - what if I plot it this way (has worked for me).
  4. Nothing is obvious - until you've shown it. Nature has surprises.
  5. More determination - if at first you don't succeed.
  6. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
  7. Assumptions are the mother of all screw ups. Test them!
  8. Scientific knowledge is NOT incompatible with religious faith, just some ideas about it.
  9. Passion - love what you do and be in love with it. You will hate it sometimes.
  10. Don't make sweeping claims unless you can back it up.
I think I've learned a thing or two in 5 years at it part and full time. One day, I may even call myself a scientist - but someone else first.

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