Sage advice from scientists to students

Researchers say to be persistent and follow your dreams


Scientists were once kids, too. And they’ve got advice for the scientists of the future.

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Scientists explore other planets, dive deep into caves and chart the ocean depths. These are just some of the incredible things that the researchers in our Cool Jobs series have done.

But each of those scientists started out as a student. And in their journeys from student to scientist, they have used hard work, determination and sometimes a little luck to achieve scientific success. Now these researchers have advice to help others follow in their footsteps. Here, in their own words, they give the counsel they wish they’d heard when they started out.

What does it take to be a scientist? Top grades are nice, but they aren’t the most important thing. Instead, you will need persistence, motivation and plenty of curiosity. “Always pursue your interests,” says Jessica Metcalf. She’s a microbial ecologist at Colorado State University. “Never be worried about not being smart enough,” she says. “You’re smart enough!”

And no matter what you do, whether it’s science or not, “take the time to discover who it is that you are, and then…be true to what that person is,” advises Paquita Zuidema. She’s an atmospheric scientist at the University of Miami in Florida. “This may not be what your family tells you or your friends or society at large…. At the end of the day, it’s worth it to make that journey of self-discovery, because you have to live with yourself, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Listen to the full playlist to hear more sage advice from scientists with Cool Jobs.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.