From Dr. Jim Kadonaga’s class on “Regulation of Gene Activity in Eukaryotes”, he had some great advice to wrap up the quarter for future scientists in choosing a thesis.
- In choosing a thesis project, ask yourself “what if it works?” If all the aims are successfully completed, what will be the contribution to our body of knowledge? If it turns out to be “not very much”, try again.
- Survey the entire landscape of what can be known. That landscape is much larger than the small islands which are often studied.
- Don’t have an answer already for the questions you are asking.
- Make yourself lucky, which means lots of hard work, and lots of critical thought.
- Know the facts behind the beliefs, because all too often, 1) paper makes conlusion on “iffy” data, 2) author writes review, presents those conclusions as well established, 3) these facts become propagated as “well established”.
- Papers are not dissimilar to movies. Give it a story!
- Do not stray from the original sample – each follow up is further away from the actual sample.
- Don’t just prepare for the unexpected – make room for it.
- Enjoy the process. Enjoy what you’re doing, when you’re doing it.
These points are readily applicable to any field of study or work, and can just as easily be transferred to any other art (I’m thinking of writing in particular). My favorite quote though? To not be afraid to “say it how it is”:
“#1, that’s bullshit. #2, that’s bullshit. #3, that’s bullshit.” -JK
I definitely have to use that as a blog post title one of these days.