Science is of paramount importance in today’s world. From the device on which you are reading this article to the antibiotics that have saved countless lives, science has helped foster a better world.
All of these advances have been possible because of students like you and me who pursued their scientific dreams. They did not back down and knew their potential for greatness, allowing them to make the great discoveries that they are known for.
But what if they had decided that classes were too hard, became discouraged, or simply thought they weren’t as good as someone else?
Here are three proven ways you can become a better student scientist now and in turn a great scientist in the future.
1. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to be a better scientist?”
The first step is to ask yourself the real questions. Why did you open this article in the first place? What is your motivation for becoming a scientist? Is it to be better than your current self, better than others, or simply the pursuit of knowledge?
What intrinsically motivates you isn’t the main point. What is important is that you are able to identify what it is. Once you have identified your motivation, you have a driving force that not many people in science have found.
In an article in Scientific American, the science journalist Daisy Yuhas states:
“When it comes to cultivating genius, talent matters, but motivation may matter more.”
2. Develop key “street smarts”
In an article published in Nature Immunology, researchers highlighted the importance of having “street smarts” for today’s developing scientists.
When talking about “street smarts,” the authors highlighted the importance of:
1) finding a mentor who can be a positive influence,
2) dressing professionally,
3) taking advantage of scientific meetings to network with other students as well as potential employers, and
4) developing your “elevator talk” (be able to talk about your research project in the time it takes to ride an elevator)
3. Do what you love!
Many times students think that there is a step-by-step path for preparing for a career in science/research; others believe that in order to pursue a career in science they must let go of other topics or activities that interest them.
In reality, many opt for a different approach. For example, I had the opportunity to meet a student who just graduated from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). She found a passion for dentistry that took her all the way to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for a research internship. Additionally, she has a passion for art. She is using her passion for art to further develop skills needed for dentistry.
Similarly, I have met a student interested in fashion and science who is making fabric from kombucha plant. He is now at Queensland University of Technology in Australia on a grant to focus perfecting the method.
There are many other similar accounts I can mention from other students I have met. One thing is certain, your work should reflect what’s important to you.
In summary, it’s important to understand yourself and what motivates you to pursue science, to be professional and take advantage of available opportunities, and to pursue topics that interests you.