Mentorship and Science
We want to work with students and post-docs who are our colleagues, with whom we will continue to collaborate as our careers take a new trajectory. That means you need to find your scientific independence and be willing to tell us when you don’t understand something or the way it is being reasoned out. We try to do good science and challenge one another and challenge our own theories and ideas.
We are enthusiastic about work/life balance. You have to get the work done however at times it feels very difficult for things to happen.
One should not be afraid of failure because, in addition to our “normal” neuroscience day to day work we also shoot for less certain projects. These projects won’t be on the shoulders of any one person, but you should take up the challenge of trying new things. In reality, not too many scientists like to discuss the fact that how many paper and grant gets rejected (“failures”) every year behind each “success”. These kinds of “failure” often reflect privilege, which is unfortunate. Young scientists and juniors usually do not have the luxury to “fail” many times early in their careers, so I do my best to protect trainees against this by providing my mentorship and sharing the best of my experience.
Note that failed ideas and experiments are “failures”, however: they still teach us a lot and test our mettle to advance knowledge and understanding. Have the mental strength, discipline and resolve to not take shortcuts, as we must in all scenarios raise ourselves above issues of ethical considerations such as fabrication, falsification, shoddy statistics, plagiarism, and the like. Science is harsh—anonymous peer review is harsher—so you will need to learn to accept the merits of criticism without internalizing it as a personal failure. You are definitely not your science. A lot of science is boring, so you will sometimes need to do the grunt work of setting up and testing equipment, debugging code, and doing the same thing over and over and over again.
The interpretation I prefer is one of a cost/benefit evaluation: if you’ve hit a point of diminishing returns, seek counsel or accept that science is iterative and that no one can learn from anything if you don’t show them what you’ve done. Hence, please be transparent and share your ideas with everyone and be open to this practice. Without communication and exchanging ideas there is no advancement in science. It’s not the epigram that I always agree, but it is definitely an important reminder for all lab members.
Communication is one of the keys and hence, learn to network with your peer groups. Talk to other researchers. Email people about their work when you have questions and doubts. Don’t be shy at all. Rather be shy but recognize that lots of people are shy and the only way to learn from them is to overcome your mutual shyness. This advice isn’t meant as a conniving ploy; in fact, networking allows you to meet really smart individuals, which gives you ideas and share ideas with your collaborators. This, in turn, lets you do science faster and better. Networking is sharing, not manipulating.
Everything revolves around figures starting from writing manuscripts, book chapters, grants, etc. Organize/save all your data in figures and make your figures clean and clear. Build your experiment with your data collection in mind. Collect your data with your analyses in mind. Analyze your data with your figures in mind. Make your figures with your talks in mind. Take the simple option wherever you can. We’re overachievers, but you need to learn to collaborate, leave questions unanswered, and when to walk away.
Listening to others’ opinions is very often useful, and very often not. Find the courage and reasoning to follow your intuition, train of original thoughts and make your own scientific judgments.