Advice to a young scientist

Here’s an article I set aside some time ago for posting on this blog.  It is called Advice to the Young from Pioneering Astrophysicist Ceclia Payne-Gaposhkin.  Spoiler: tenacity and a sense of purpose are important factors for success in our field.

The short summary at the top of the article is particularly interesting:

Work with love, embrace the unexpected, let no one else make intellectual decisions for you, and always remain in direct touch with the fountain-head.

At the end of the article there are a number of links to very interesting reads on similar themes.  Check out one of them, and give us your thoughts in the comment section.  I’d love to hear your opinions about whether advice articles like these are helpful.

2 thoughts on “Advice to a young scientist

  1. Articles like these are incredibly insightful, and further help to reaffirm a sense of purpose that honestly any individual should adopt. Pursue what truly makes you happy and what gives you that sense of “kid in a candy store” wonder. That same sense of wonder is something that a musician would have at the sound of a consonant resolution at the end of a piece, or that a physician would have at helping others in a clinic, or a medical researcher may have at taking steps towards a (potential) cure for cancer. In this case, [the case of a young astronomer or astrophysicist] the wonder at the discovery of something in the infinite unknown of space, or the potential discovery towards sustainable life somewhere else in the universe. All very great thought… It’s also nice to see another woman scientist being credited with a discovery which she clearly deserves the credit, back when credit was not given on the basis of sexual discrimination. Finally, the fact that she took up the violin, just as Albert Einstein once did is very interesting, because music can be a powerful influence for everyone, and as a violinist myself, this makes me smile. Just my thoughts though…

  2. The story it tells is inspirational to be sure. To rise against all odds is truly remarkable and is deserving of credit. However, the message it tries to convey seems to be directed at a only the most driven and passionate of us all. With messages like “Undertake it only if nothing else will satisfy you; for nothing else is probably what you will receive.” and “It has been a case of survival, not of the fittest, but of the most doggedly persistent.” it makes me feel as if I am undeserving or unqualified to pursue my title. Now don’t get me wrong, I care not for fame or fortune and my fascination with the cosmos is not to be dismissed. But even though astronomy is my greatest passion, I still have many others and I am unsure I can put as much effort as Payne had. Point being, if to reach success requires such persistence, what do I do when I don’t feel as strongly about it?

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