• Question: What would be your top tips to anyone who would want to be a scientist when they are older?

    Asked by EllaJ on 27 Apr 2020.
    • Photo: Kim Liu

      Kim Liu answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      First – practise being curious about ANYTHING 🙂 I try to live by this ideal – if somebody finds something interesting, then I should be able to find it interesting if I spend time thinking about it. This includes other people’s subjects, jobs and hobbies. An good scientist asks good questions – by practising curiosity, you practise asking questions.
      Second – when answering your questions, look for evidence. This is the hardest part of being a scientist; how do you know what the answer is? To be a scientist is to realise that it’s not enough to just believe something – you need to find data, facts and information to back up your ideas.
      Finally – this is the least important, but still useful – try and know and learn as much as possible. You brain works faster if it know something in advance!

    • Photo: Patricia Brown

      Patricia Brown answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      Stay curious, patient and open-minded, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

      One thing I love about being a scientist is that I get to ask questions and try to find out the answers. I use the scientific method to do that. First, I ask a question. Then, I will do a bit of research to see if anyone else has already asked that question, and whether they already have an answer. If we don’t have an answer yet, I’ll use the information that I found, make a hypothesis and design an experiment that will help support (or not!) that hypothesis. If my hypothesis is not supported by the results of my experiment, then maybe I should go back and make a new hypothesis, and try again. Sometimes things don’t make sense right away so we have to be very patient and try again (or try something new). Scientists spend a lot of time learning, thinking and asking questions!

    • Photo: Freya Harrison

      Freya Harrison answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      And while you’re being curious and asking questions… don’t be afraid of being wrong. Lots of people are shy about asking questions, or trying new things out, in case they make a mistake. But being wrong and making mistakes are really important parts of the scientific process. We would never learn anything new, otherwise. So my advice to add to Kim and Patricia’s answers is: if anyone ever tells you that you’ve asked a silly question, or laughs because you’re tried something that hasn’t worked, ignore them and keep on asking and trying.

    • Photo: Soudabeh Imanikia

      Soudabeh Imanikia answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      You have already received really good tips, what I would like to add is that: Firstly find what you have passion for. Don’t just follow a trendy topic because everyone talks about it. Look around, see what inspires you. For example, if into Biological and Medical Sciences, maybe try to find a placement/week of being in a lab (of course after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted) and get an idea of the day to day work flow. There are many labs and places that you can visit and learn about the “real world of science”.

      Ask questions and try to guess the answers, be critical! Don’t be afraid to ask “why” questions.
      But the golden rule to me is: find YOUR inner zing! what makes you excited when you think of science?

    • Photo: Maria Marti

      Maria Marti answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      I think the others have given you very good answers. I would add that you should not be stressed if you are still not quite sure which scientific questions or subjects make you more excited. You are allowed to change your focus as you learn about new research topics, and most successful scientists do so at different points in their careers!

    • Photo: Mery Shahin

      Mery Shahin answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      Further to the answers above, I would also recommend seeking out popular science books describing scientific theories or notable scientific discoveries. These books are a great way to understand more about how science works – how hypothesis are made and tested. They’ll also help you learn more on subjects you are particularly interested in than what is perhaps taught at school. I have a biological background so some of the books I would recommend are Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, and Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

    • Photo: Melanie Krause

      Melanie Krause answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      This has been said by many people already but its true: The most important thing is to be curious… if you always wonder ‘but how does this work’ or ‘why are things that way’ you already start of well. Then maybe try to figure out which discipline is most interesting to you.. do you want to figure out how diseases work? how plants grow? how to build an airplane? or how to make a chemical compound to make medicine? Those will lead you down very different paths at University so think about what you like most before you enrol… that is not to say you can’t change your mind, but you should have a rough idea before you begin!
      Then you need to have some endurance.. maybe even be a bit stubborn in a sense… many times your experiments will fail.. or not give you the answer you expected.. so it can be really hard to ‘see’ progress in your work.. but you need to power through and not give up 😉

    • Photo: Arun Prasad Pandurangan

      Arun Prasad Pandurangan answered on 27 Apr 2020: last edited 27 Apr 2020 4:40 pm


      1) Be passionate about helping people through the window of Science
      2) Look out for inspiration
      3) Be patient
      4) Be imaginative and dream big
      5) Develop collaborative skills and share ideas
      6) Respect and appreciate contributions of others however small it may be
      7) Do not easily give up
      8) Always keep an open mind as things constantly evolve including our current understanding of the world
      9) Do not fear of failures
      10) More importantly be kind to everyone

    • Photo: Natasha Aley

      Natasha Aley answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      Theres been some great answers so far, but I just want to add that it’s really important to get some experience.
      Experience is really important for you to see whether science is how you imagined it. But it’s also really important to know that science is such a broad subject, 2 people can both be scientists but have completely different jobs! So if you experience 1 type and do not enjoy it, that doesn’t mean that you won’t like an experience with someone else.
      Also, experience is great to put on applications to show your interest in the subject. You’re a lot more likely to get a position somewhere if you have experience in the area.
      Perhaps talk to your science teacher or careers advisor about getting some experience. Also you can speak to your parents about it and see if they know anyone that could help.

    • Photo: Donna MacCallum

      Donna MacCallum answered on 27 Apr 2020:


      Ask questions… think carefully how to design experiments to investigate the questions… make sure that you include controls!

      Work in the area of science that you enjoy – but be prepared to work with others who might be able to add other skills and knowledge.

      Stay skeptical… always look for evidence that what you read is true!

    • Photo: Liane Hobson

      Liane Hobson answered on 28 Apr 2020:


      You’ve had some really good advice. I would also like to add that you should find some good hobbies and interests outside of science. We all work hard, but it’s important that you are able to take some time away – some of my best thinking happens right after I’ve had a break from trying to figure something out!

    • Photo: Spyros Lytras

      Spyros Lytras answered on 28 Apr 2020:


      I think all good scientists are driven by a passion for their work! You should be curious about things and make sure you enjoy the scientific questions you are trying to answer. Learning as much as you can is a good tip, but this should mainly be driven by your own curiosity, so make sure that you have a real passion and interest for the field you might want to pursue!

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 28 Apr 2020: last edited 28 Apr 2020 10:57 pm


      Be curious, work hard, keep asking questions – especially those that you are passionate about. Understand that there is no such thing as a ‘failed experiment’; if designed properly, every experiment should provide some new information, even if the result is not what you expected. Don’t ignore unexpected results – explore them further until you have found a way to explain them – some of the greatest discoveries came about in this way! Be collaborative and generous – share and discuss your ideas with others and communicate your science to the wider public with clarity, caution, and transparency. Beware of over-interpreting your results – how else might they have arisen? Always consider the limitations of the experiment or model system you are working with – understanding these limitations is key to learning things that are relevant to the real world. Always acknowledge the help of others appropriately – the best science rarely happens in isolation. Have lots of contingency plans and don’t be afraid to try new techniques! Be kind to yourself and your colleagues – be ready to help them if you can. Science is an expedition that never ends – embrace it, enjoy it, pass it on.

    • Photo: Andrew Beale

      Andrew Beale answered on 1 May 2020:


      1. Play and mess around lots. Explore your world.
      2. Take things to bits and see what’s inside them.
      3. Cook. Change bits in recipes and note down what makes a recipe better. Make sure to change just one thing at a time!
      4. Keep asking “why” questions!

    • Photo: Martin Law

      Martin Law answered on 3 May 2020:


      Hi Ella, good question. I think that the best thing is to understand that there are lots of different scientist jobs, and keep your mind open to all of them so that you can find something that’s right for you. Whatever you’re good at and whatever you’re like as a person, there will hopefully be a suitable scientist job for you.

      A good idea might be to think about your own likes, dislikes, your personality and what kinds of activities are good for you personally. After all, you could spend 80,000 hours of your life at work, so it’s a good idea to think about what suits you!

      Do you prefer working on your own or in a team? Do you like building things and getting your hands dirty, or do you prefer to sit and think about a problem on a piece of paper? Do you want to meet new people all the time, or stay in the one place and get to know a small number of people really well? Or maybe you don’t want to work with people at all! What is it about being a scientist that makes you want to become one? Once you know yourself better, things become clearer, though sometimes your answers might change over time.

      For example, I wanted to do something that helped people, but I didn’t want to be a doctor. Also, I liked maths, but didn’t want to be a maths teacher or an accountant. Then I discovered medical statistics, a whole area of science that was all about using maths to improve health, like designing trials for medicine.

      Overall, I’m suggesting finding out about all different kinds of science areas and which ones suit you, and also finding out about different jobs in the areas that suit you. Good luck!

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