Success in Science

October 10, 2012 | by Samuel LaBarge

Samuel LaBarge… often it was the plodders who turned out to be powerhouses. — from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Cancer Ward.”

 Whether you plod for competition or for the sheer love of discovery, if you stick it out you can be successful.

 I often find myself ruminating around the lifestyle of scientists. Science is hard and often takes many laborious hours. Not all science is glamorous. Pouring gels, labeling tubes and aliquoting are such examples. The pay is low and the staggering, treacherous climb to job security can be disheartening.

 A question for you: If we do not spend all of our time on glamorous scientific discoveries then why do we plod on? For success? For answers? When you find yourself to be a successful scientist, what end points do you judge yourself by?

 I think a successful scientist can be measured in easily identifiable end-points: publication quality; funding status; incubation of graduate students; and culturing of post-docs. These endpoints are important because they show a scientist is contributing to the advancement of science and can train others to utilize the benefits it offers. However, more philosophically, a successful scientist can be defined more simply than that.

 The most successful scientists among us are those who pursue science without hindrance. In the face of politics and budget restrictions, those “Carl Sagans” who approach a problem or idea with the utmost fascination, those Marie Curies with specific attention to detail, those men and women who are in science because science has the answers, they are successful scientists.

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