Dear Molly Cule: Advice from BPS Profilee

Our February 2013 BPS Newsletter Biophysicist in Profile, Dr. Jennifer Ross, gave lots of tips for young people starting their careers in biophysics. We couldn’t include it all in the newsletter article, so enjoy the rest of her advice here!

There are a number of pieces of advice I would give to young people in biophysics. Some I followed myself, and others I wish I had.

(1)    Immerse yourself in the literature. The people who are most impressive are those who are the most well-read. This takes time, but it is OK.

(2)    There is more to science than taking data. You are still working if you are reading science or analyzing data.

(3)    ImageJ is your friend.

(4)    Yes, biophysical data takes one day to take and three weeks to analyze with many, many steps.

(5)    Learn to program. MatLab is nice, but Java is better.

(6)    Learn electronics or shop, or better yet: both.

(7)    Write down everything in your notebook – especially your failures. Don’t repeat those failures.

Ross Image(8)    Productivity = -(Effort)2 + 150*(Effort) (see figure to the left). After a certain amount of effort, there are diminishing returns. It is best to stay on the linear upslope of this curve, and not at the peak, because that in an unstable equilibrium, and you are not able to get more out of added effort.

(9) Save gel samples.

(10) Always look for the help inside the critique. Science is full of criticisms. That is how it operates. Some people are better at being constructive than others. But even those that seem plain mean are trying to tell you something. If you figure it out, your science will be better for it. So, take the time to understand what is wanted.

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