As a scientist, a lot of the work that you do is individual so it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are in fact people around and out there to help you. As a young and up and coming science especially it can be difficult asking for help from those that are more experienced in fear that it will discredit you and make them think that you’re not smart enough or up for the job. If you’re an up and coming scientist, and you really don’t want to ask for help, you can find some advice below on how you can maximize your potential.
First of all, you shouldn’t let a slight emotional dip ruin the rest of your PhD thesis. Doing a PhD can be challenging for your mental health, there is no doubt about it, but there are ways to combat it. The challenges and the dips will comes, whether it be when you’re a few months or a few years into working on it—it’s all about how you combat them. First and foremost, you should not combat the dips and the challenges by pushing yourself even further at that particular time: you should combat it by getting as far away from it as possible and finding as much relaxation as you can. Now, this may be easier said than done as, occasionally, when people set a certain time for relaxation it more than likely ends up being a time when they worry even more, simply because of the fact that they know this is the only time they get to be away from it, and another time isn’t coming again soon. So, to find relaxation it is advised that you gets yourself completely away from everything and force yourself to relax. A sound piece of advice in regards to this is to escape the hustle and bustle and everything that reminds you of your PhD and go for a relaxing fishing break. The relaxation experienced whilst fishing will reduce the rate of growth of cortisol in your brain, otherwise known, as you’re probably aware, as the stress hormone.
And once back from the fishing trip, and back to grinding the PhD out, or any other work you’ve been experimenting with, you will more than likely have a clearer view as to what is right and what is wrong with the project. If, you come back and feel as if you can now see clearly that something isn’t working, then it may be time to stop working on the project, no matter how old it is, especially if the project is proving to be costly. Now, this can be a very daunting and frustrating experience that can cause a maelstrom of feelings—it can seem unfair, it can induce fears of the future and it can insure frustrations over waster time in the past. It can also, however, induce great relief and bring a much needed and healthy dose of freedom. All sorts of famous and successful people in the past, not necessarily scientists, have failed. Bill Gates, for instance, tried to found a company called Traf-O-Data but it failed—it malfunctioned because of the fact that it was riddled with bugs—and look at him now. Steve Jobs, also, had trouble with a previous company that he had started before finding HUGE success in the one that his name will forever be associated with. If they can start over and go on to find huge success with another project, then why can’t you?
If becoming a professor is the way in which you believe you’ll find great success, then this is the goal that you should work towards. However, as you are probably aware, it is a very, very tough and long process. A massive 90 percent of scientists who hold a PhD go on to find a job outside of academia and education, so just having one doesn’t guarantee a career as a professor or lecturer. You have to get through the dubious selection committee, and they will factor in a whole host of different factors. One of which is your niche. Being an expert when it comes to a particular niche can help to convince those that are selecting that you are in fact needed and would be a useful addition to their team. Having a relevant niche to that of which is needed at that time can even compensate for having a limited publication list or even limited funding as it can set you above the rest. For instance, if you are a highly trained expert in human anatomy or imaging, the selection committee may be interested in taking you on as they need someone who is an expert in them at this particular time. So, to be truthful, this could all be down to good luck, something scientists sometimes forget to factor in.
What isn’t down to luck, however, is getting yourself into the position in the first place by studying your niche until you’re sick of the sight of it. You can so do by studying, studying, and studying some more; but what you should also consider doing is attending conferences. For instance, if your niche is in fact medical imaging then you can learn more about the subject, and even earn medical education credits whilst you do so, by heading to a CME Science conference. Attending one of the four, if not all four, of the conferences will allow you learn everything that it is possible to learn about one of the greatest medical achievements of all time—oh, and the conferences are all in Hawaii, if that sweetens the deal for you. And, if your niche is human anatomy, then you can head to any number of the international conferences on offer that can be found here. Attending any of these conferences will not only allow you to learn about and earn credits in regards to your niche, but it will also allow you to do something that is just as important: to travel and enrich your life by experiencing new cultures.
And, this is the final advice to any budding scientists out there that need some guidance: you should never forget that you are a human, and you need to experiment and explore in regards to your own life, just as much as you experiment and explore your science projects.
Photo by Drew Hays