What it takes to be a scientist?

The past year has forced us to rethink the priorities in our daily lives. With the rising urge to develop vaccines, in plain sight, scientists (in biological sciences) worldwide have put their skills to use for the best and the fastest solution to stop the Covid-19 virus. In light of our post-pandemic experiences, the majority of the people around the world came to an understanding that science, more specifically pure research, is indispensable. Maybe some of the young people searching for a role model or a profession for themselves wondered, what were the specific skills those brilliant scientists had to become one? What path did they follow to train themselves?

Starting from high school lay the foundations. Learn mathematics, physics, biology, coding, and the universal science language English -if it is not already your native language- well. Besides, learn one more language that could become handy when choosing countries for further studies or when collaborating with other scientists in the later steps of your path. Choose yourself a target department, university, and, if needed, a different country for your undergraduate studies. Deciding on your major (chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science, etc.) is essential, but it is not limiting. There is always the possibility of tailoring your academic program by courses offered by various departments either in your university or by remote courses offered by universities abroad through the internet. Some adventurous students take advantage of Erasmus exchanges during the last years of their undergraduate studies. This exchange would especially become insightful if you would like to go abroad for your graduate studies. It could give ideas for the location.

All the mentioned points for undergraduate studies also apply to your graduate studies. If you consider changing subjects, that could be even more valuable than studying the same thing both for your undergraduate and graduate studies. Researchers with interdisciplinary skills are becoming more and more sought after.

Among all the steps, the most crucial one is your choice of supervisor for your doctoral studies. Investigate thoroughly the person that will mentor you. Especially consider people valuing work-life balance. You are investing many years of your life to do a Ph.D. It would be best if you did not have to give up your other ambitions, such as having kids or pursuing your wildest hobby to play in a rock band.

Whatever your path is, always try to improve the way you communicate your science, either in writing or when presenting. Science communication is detrimental to your carrier. You are at the point of negotiating with a major drug company to produce the vaccine you have developed at a large scale; you have to communicate your science flawlessly. You are applying for a grant to some major foundation to support your innovative but a bit crazy project; you have to explain the science behind it confidently.

Take inspiration from the biographies of scientists, but do not compare yourselves with them. Each individual has his/her unique path, never the same but always filled with patience, perseverance, and passion.

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