Monday, March 2, 2009

Advice from a Nobel Laureate

This evening I attended a talk by Eric Cornell, who shared the Nobel prize in physics in 2001 for his work on the creation of the first Bose-Einstein condensate. The talk was accessible, entertaining, and engaging--a rarity in any field of science, let alone condensed matter physics.

During the question and answer period, a young woman in the front row (probably no more than 12 or 13 years old) asked what she should study if she wants to be a successful scientist. Dr. Cornell mentioned the usual suspects - take courses in math and science. And then he added - work on your writing! This is an important word of wisdom, and one that is often neglected.

Good communication skills are a foundation of science - if we can't share our work with friends and colleagues, and have them understand the research, what's the point? So, to all of you students out there, work on your writing skills! Practice writing, get honest critiques from someone who has the time and honesty to really hammer your work, and then learn from the experience. And, practice communicating your research through other methods--oral presentations, posters, email, and the Internet. Even today, after completing a Ph.D., I am still working on my communication skills--I suspect it will be a lifelong task!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More career advice from some other Nobel prize winners (R.P. Feynman, J.D. Watson, S. Weinberg, A. Ciechanover) can be found here.