The unspoken rules of the scientific research world: how to become a good scientist

After working for a long time, you will naturally encounter bottlenecks. Usually, you will find bottlenecks when you encounter setbacks. At this time, you need to reflect on yourself.

It is difficult for you to fully understand yourself at work. Only when you gossip with friends or read some good articles can you get access to various information and reflect.

The following is a good article that describes some unspoken rules of the scientific research circle and how to become a good researcher.

Q ( Cell Stem Cell ) : What is your philosophical philosophy guiding graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, and are there any differences between the two? Do you foresee changes in your coaching philosophy and style over the years?


A (Deng Hongkui) : The way I communicate with different students is different, it depends on their training level, needs and personality. As Confucius said, "Teach students in accordance with their aptitude": For the students in the lower grades, I hope they can cultivate their own experimental ability and read some literature; as they continue to grow, I will also encourage them to think independently and dare to put forward their own scientific hypotheses. And use experiments to test whether this hypothesis is valid. I think what I should do as a mentor is to provide a good environment for students to become excellent experimental experts, to be able to choose good scientific questions, and to feel the excitement of scientific research.


In recent years, I have often organized some team activities in the laboratory, including hiking and long-distance running, so that students can maintain perseverance and courage in scientific research. Of course, these activities also provide valuable opportunities for lab members to communicate and learn more about each other. At the same time, it is also a good opportunity for me to fully understand their personalities and needs.


With my students, I try to strike a balance between "direct instruction" and "give them some space" so that they can solve problems on their own. For younger students, I spend a lot of time discussing topics with them, analyzing data, and helping guide them when they need it. But for senior students and postdoctoral fellows, I give them more freedom to promote their research ability and learn the ability to control the subject. In addition, I also provide them with some opportunities for thesis writing, reviewing and grant applications, which are crucial to their career development.


There are more and more "post-90s" students today, they have strong personalities and good learning ability, but lack the ability of self-discipline. Therefore, I tend to communicate more frequently with these young students and ask them to write reviews of some newly published papers as well as classic papers.


Q : What important but perhaps overlooked issues should students consider when choosing a tutor?


A : When choosing a mentor, young students should be clear about which fields of study they are interested in. They need to choose the labs that offer them the best training opportunities, and the research institutes or businesses that can help them develop their careers. Before they make a choice, it's important to do their "homework", read papers from prospective supervisors, and understand their current research work. Students should also communicate with students or postdocs in the labs they intend to join to gain a better understanding of the group. Once they've outlined their options, ask to communicate with the mentor. In general, mentors are usually happy to communicate with students who are genuinely interested in their own work. During the exchange process, applicants can talk about why they are interested in their research work and why they want to join the laboratory, and try to impress future supervisors.


Q : In addition to choosing their main tutor, do you have any advice for students to choose other tutors?


A : Different laboratories have different research styles. Some labs are focused, while others may have some breadth. In general, a current trend is to use an interdisciplinary approach to solving complex problems. For example, my own lab, like many others, applies an interdisciplinary approach to fundamental questions in regenerative medicine, including in vitro and in vitro cellular reprogramming and fate determination.


To prepare for research and collaboration across multiple disciplines, you need to build a broad knowledge base, rather than becoming very narrow during your early career training and only reading papers that are closely related to your own experiments. It is important to develop your ability to communicate with experts in multiple fields of study, which will greatly broaden your research horizons and help you find the field of study that you think is most unique.


Q : What do you think is the role of a mentor?


A : I believe that as a mentor, the most important responsibility is to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses. As described in ancient Chinese poems, "I don't know the true face of Mount Lu, only because I am in this mountain". At the same time, I also really want to help my students overcome their shortcomings as much as possible, which of course takes time and patience.


For example, one of my top students (now a fourth-year Ph.D.) had a very low self-confidence in the first few weeks in the lab, unable to decide what to do next, and had to rely on others for advice. Knowing the situation, I gave the student an easy project to start with, and encouraged him to discuss his ideas with the rest of the lab and then develop his own research plan. As the subject became more and more difficult later, the student gradually realized his research ability and his self-confidence improved significantly.


On the other hand, for the older students, I would encourage them to attend some conferences and interact with other participants. I would ask them to return to the lab after the conference to share what they have learned.


As a mentor, my doors are always open to students.



Q : When you became a mentor, what was the one thing you wished you told yourself?


A : I would tell myself that I need to be more active and encourage my students. I think, as a mentor, I might be a little too picky. In lab group meetings and literature presentations, I can be too harsh because I have high expectations and take it for granted that students are doing well.


Nonetheless, many of my students are well trained and developed well. But I quickly realized that every student actually has unique personalities and needs, and these students can do better in a more positive environment.


Although I am still very critical and demanding when discussing scientific issues with my students, I will try to be more encouraging and understanding, and let students know that I am expressing my thoughts on their ideas, efforts, and contributions to science. Appreciate.


Q : Senior researchers play a crucial role for young scientists early in their careers. As a senior researcher, what do you think your responsibilities are to young teachers?


A : Young faculty tend to be anxious. How to set up a new laboratory, how to start a successful career... these will make them anxious. Senior researchers can offer advice on what to do specifically for young people. In particular, guidance is given on running a laboratory, utilizing large instrumentation facilities, and project/time management. In addition, senior staff can provide guidance to young teachers on essay writing and grant applications, which are critical to young people's survival and career development.


Q : As a senior researcher, what are your thoughts on encouraging and supporting women and the developmental advancement of "underrepresented minorities"?


A: In order to support and encourage female scientists and "minority" scientists, I will try to provide them with good opportunities to present their results. Such opportunities are not only reflected in laboratory group meetings or internal discussions, but also at national or international conferences. These can help them build self-confidence and connect with other scientists, which is self-evidently important to career success.


Q : Which mentors are the most memorable for you? How have they influenced your life, career, and style of mentoring students?


A: The two mentors who have influenced me the most are Eli Sercarz from UCLA and Dan R. Littman from New York University. They are all brilliant scientists with great vision. Eli was my mentor during my Ph.D., gave me a lot of encouragement, inspired my scientific career, and taught me to keep an open mind in the research process.


Dan was my postdoc mentor who not only encouraged me but challenged me to create good ideas. He wanted me to be careful about my research and to think ahead of time about what to do next. He also showed me the importance of setting a goal. For me at that time, the goal was to find the co-receptor of HIV, and made unremitting efforts to this end ( BioArt Note : Professor Deng Hongkui finally knew the co-receptor of HIV in the postdoctoral stage, and related work was published in the journal Nature in 1996 . superior). Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned from him is to be unafraid of even the most challenging tasks, no matter how technically challenging. He will always be my role model, he taught me not only how to start my business but also how to mentor students.


Q : What advice do you have for students in establishing an academic exchange network? What role do you think a mentor should play?


A: One of the reasons I encourage students to attend international conferences is to provide them with this kind of academic networking opportunity. I stressed to them the importance of this kind of networking and admonished them to build relationships not only with people in their field, but also with experts in other fields who might be potentially important to us in the future. In this communication process, students have the opportunity to learn the research methods, thinking methods, and problem-solving methods of experts in other fields. I strongly encourage my students to develop this communication habit so that they can seek scientific or career advice from outside experts, collaborators or potential collaborators.


Q : What do you think of the "plasticity" problem in mentoring students? To what extent do you think mentors need to change their coaching style?


A : As I said earlier, when I was a first-time teacher, I was probably too strict and demanding. But I quickly became aware of the problem and worked hard to adapt to engage with different students based on their talents and interests.


For example, I've found that some students do well when faced with challenges, but others may need more encouragement. My goal is to develop a positive, inspiring teacher-student relationship. As the Chinese saying goes, "keep the same in order to cope with all changes". For me, the basic principle of guiding students is to help each individual grow, inspire their self-confidence, and encourage them to be good researchers who can not only ask good questions, but solve them.


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