What Makes a Successful Scientist?

Successful ScientistAs scientists, we’re as diverse as the DNA that encodes us.  Some of us would read papers at the dinner table, if allowed, while others need a break and leave the literature in the lab.  Some of us consider an 80-hour week to be normal, while others just don’t consider it at all.  Some of us prefer to work in solitude, while others spend half of the day discussing future experimental plans with colleagues.

Yet, it’s likely we all know people from each of those categories who are doing very well, so it would appear success is not reserved for one particular type of scientist… or is it?  Are there attributes that may bias our careers as scientists toward a more successful path?  Of course, “success” can be a pretty subjective concept, sort of like “vacation”, but whatever your definition, let us know what you think would be most valuable in getting you there.

Which three of these are the most valuable for a successful career in science?

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6 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. Rich Apodaca

    wrote on December 2, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    There's a quality I'm not sure has a good name – it's something like 'persistence yet knowing when it's time to quit.'

  2. [email protected]

    wrote on December 3, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Definitely. I guess it's kind of in the same vein as "wisdom" or "experience", but if you can nail that you're set. I've seen tons of friends (myself included) beat on a project for way too long before finally deciding to change course. Lots of time wasted…

  3. Seven Habits of a Highly Successful Scientist | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on August 26, 2010 at 1:26 am

    […] was almost universally agreed upon in a previous poll that becoming a great scientist requires hard work and discipline.  While this is certainly true, […]

  4. Cody Calkins

    wrote on September 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Luck is a huge part of it, especially if you're trying to complement a mutant… Pectobacterium are picky.

  5. Susanne

    wrote on September 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I am missing passion in this list. The most inspiring scientists I know have a great deal of passion for their work.

  6. [email protected]

    wrote on September 11, 2012 at 8:59 am

    True- and it would be really interesting to know where passion would rank on a list like this.

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