• Question: What qualities do you need to become a scientist?

    Asked by patrykpetrus to Anna, Chris, Jane, Iain, Nick on 13 Mar 2014. This question was also asked by jenny1, fifaslaya.
    • Photo: Anna Middleton

      Anna Middleton answered on 13 Mar 2014:


      I think people who are drawn to logic enjoy science. What I like is the fact that you have a question, do some measuring of something, then find an answer. It is a really satisfying process. You need to be quite methodical, so planning is important as well as writing everything up carefully. This way you can see what works and what doesn’t and what has been the best way to find a robust answer. In ethics (which is what I also do) I also have to think a bit more creatively.

    • Photo: Iain Moal

      Iain Moal answered on 14 Mar 2014:


      I think there are lots of traits which you need to be successful in science. You have to be hard working and willing to study, and be able to think clearly and logically. You also need to be determined, patient and resilient, because things go wrong all the time and you have to be able to see a project though, although you also have to know when to give up and move on when things don’t go as planned. A sense of humor can help with this. Ambition and self-belief is also important, in order to motivate yourself to try risky research and do new things. Above all, you need to be creative, I would say more creative than for artistic subjects. This might not be obvious from your position, where in science classes you are learning things that are already known, but to do research and discover new truths about the world it takes a lot of creative use of the ideas and tools which you have available.

    • Photo: Chris Cole

      Chris Cole answered on 14 Mar 2014:


      I agree with Iain and Anna.

      I’d also add that you need a thick skin. As a scientist you need to present your work to other scientists. The point of this is to show everyone your new and exciting results, but more importantly it is ‘peer review’. This is where other scientist get to check you’ve done things right. If you haven’t, they *will* tell you, sometimes in not the most diplomatic way. You have to be prepared to fight your corner or accept that your experiment needs more work.

    • Photo: Jane Charlesworth

      Jane Charlesworth answered on 18 Mar 2014:


      I think being really stubborn, curious and creative really help. That said, some areas of science are about coming up with big ideas and others need people who have the self-control to work on very detailed questions for years (classification of living things, for example), so I think people with a lot of different qualities can all contribute to science.

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