May 12, 2011

Inspiring Would-be Scientists

by Heather Falconer

Let’s face it: we’ve all had a crisis of faith (or three) during the course of our career development. Whether we’re students still working through the long list of required courses, academics trying to build our publication credentials, or established professionals looking for our next breakthrough, we’ve all had that moment where we look in the mirror and ask: “Am I ever going to get there?”

One of the myths that perpetuates in our society — especially with regard to science — is that the Einstein’s, Hawking’s, and Curie’s were all born knowing what they wanted to do with their life and the best route to achieve great things. Without being conscious of it, many of us forget that anyone who has ever accomplished anything had to start at the bottom, and may have had a few round-about turns along their journey.

This week, Nobel prize winners attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles to share some unconventional wisdom with would-be scientists. They weren’t talking about how to get into graduate school or best practices in research. Instead, they revealed the more human side of the scientific journey: like alternative careers they explored, some of the more stupid things they did, and the activities they do outside of their award-winning work. (You can read some of the responses here.) We applaud these Laureates for taking a great step toward removing the mysterious veil about scientists.

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Heather Falconer

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Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.

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