Posted by: wolf | February 8, 2008

how to become a grown-up scientist

I didn’t get to post this week — I am preparing courses for summer, and am helping to write down an application for a really large research grant. So for now just a short story: Look at Dr. Free-Ride’s continuing story on the “project of being a grown-up scientist” (link to the first part at the beginning of her post).

Just two months ago I myself took another step on the ladder, finally receiving my PhD (or rather the “doctorate”, since I am in Germany), but I don’t feel so much a grown-up scientist yet; in part, because I have never really written a proposal for a research grant by myself yet, and I have not really been so much involved into teaching and training younger I-want-to-be-a-scientist(s). But I didn’t get that much training either from my then supervisor; he was more like what Dr Free-Ride describes:

It’s not uncommon for advisors to assume that their trainees (at least, the sharp ones) will pick up all they need to know simply by watching how the boss does things. But how can you tell what to watch?

Only now after I don’t work for him anymore, I realized that one thing I rather did not like so much about my former supervisor is that he actually inspired a lot of ambition and creativity in his trainees by NOT always paying attention to our ideas. We often got angry when he was not really listening or not giving helpful feedback. I don’t suggest that supervisors should proceed in the same way. On the contrary, it’s an example of how difficult it is to learn simply by watching.


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