Here are seven qualities to consider if you want to succeed as a researcher.
I had the opportunity to attend the Neuroscience symposium, a joint program between the National Institutet of Health (NIH) in the United States and Karolinska Institutet (KI). The aim of this KI-NIH Doctoral Partnership Programme in Neuroscience is ‘to promote ground-breaking research in fundamental areas of neuroscience and psychiatry that could lead to a better understanding of brain function, neurological diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders and new medical diagnostics and treatments’.
Between helping at the conference and listening to all the talks, I learned a thing or two that could apply to aspiring researchers in any field.
Two heads are better than one. In any field, but most importantly in epidemiology and the science world, collaboration is extremely important in the advancement of science. It is becoming increasingly difficult for individual researchers and scientists to conduct revolutionising and groundbreaking research on their own. This makes collaboration a necessity. Collaboration is difficult to find so one strategy is to attend conferences and symposiums that attract people of the same interest. Collaboration is the foundation for the KI-NIH joint graduate program.
- Keeping up with the scientific literature
Research is advancing at an exponential level. To say that I was in awe is an understatement. People are studying how to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s using animal models, identifying medication targets for drug addiction, researching novel treatments for alcohol use disorders, studying health disparities in pain, and understating formation of long lasting memories. What does this mean? It means that you need to constantly update your knowledge by reading about the area you are committing your career to.
- Learning the art of patient failure
Though the speakers managed to squeeze in years of research in a 15 min talk, they never failed to mention how long it took to develop a particular technique or how long it took them to make a procedure work. Research requires a trial and error approach, especially when you are trying to approach a topic from a new perspective.
This goes hand in hand with the above point. To become a successful researcher, you need to work hard, which means long hours, spending weeks and months to solve a single problem and meeting deadlines for papers. With commitment, comes persistency. You must continue to work despite discouraging results.
- Creative and highly motivated
A good researcher sees a problem as something to overcome than to be avoided. I could see their eyes light up when they mention how a technique that failed aided them in coming up with a novel technique that also gave them more ideas on how to approach other facets of the research topic.
- Excellent communication skills
I could say that some of the presenters were better than others, not by merit (well, some were more accomplished than others but that’s not the point) but by how they deliver the material. You need to continuously practice how to publicly present in a clear and coherent manner. Clearly, it is something that takes lots of practice.
- Time management during presentations
We have all been in a position where we have more slides than the time allotted. Yet, we disregard that and hope it will be fine. Nope- stay within your given time. It is essential to communicate key points in a clear and concise manner. If you have a 15 min class presentation, don’t hope the professor will overlook if you go over 15 min because chances are he/she will, but this goes beyond the classroom. Practice, practice.
Remember there is a researcher within us!
Stay tuned, lovely people!