At a recent scientific careers event in London, University of Kent geneticist Darren Griffin – also a career development fellow for the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – presented his ten commandments for being a successful scientist in academia. We’ve reproduced them below for your reading pleasure along with further advice that Griffin gave at the event. Have a read and tell us what you think – do you agree with the list? Do any ring particularly true for you? Are there any others you would add? Share your views in the comment box.
Darren Griffin’s ten commandments for succeeding in academia
1. The only way to do good research is to get on with it
“There’s no point having really good ideas if you don’t put them into action,” says Griffin. “Write those grants, write those papers.”
2. When opportunity knocks, open the door
Be prepared to take risks with new ventures: “If there’s an opportunity there for you and it’s in your interests to pursue it, then get on and do it.”
3. With good people you can do anything
Griffin says interacting with his team is one of the most rewarding aspects of his work, and he’s not afraid of high achievers. “You should only take someone on if they can do something you can’t,” he says. “Your whole operation will only grow if you’ve got people who are better than you are, and you shouldn’t be ashamed or insecure about that.”
4. It’s not about your knowledge – it’s about imagination and ideas
Although a certain level of knowledge is essential, Griffin says you can always look up anything else you need to know – what you should focus on is coming up with new ideas. And as well as drawing on the talent in your team, you should also turn to your peers for inspiration. “Science is very much a social activity – you’ve got to get out there, network and have collaborators,” says Griffin.
5. Always bring something to the party
It takes two to collaborate – if you don’t have something to contribute, your partners will move on.
6. It’s not the size of your gun, it’s when you shoot
“It’s a popular misconception that you just throw money and lots of people at an idea and it will work,” says Griffin. Not always true, he says – you need to shoot at the right time to hit the target.
7. If the system doesn’t work for you, change it, do something else or don’t complain
Fairly self-explanatory, this one – be proactive and decisive, because “nobody likes a whinger”.
8. Don’t ask why, ask why not
“If you’re a scientist, do not take no for an answer, because every no is one step closer to a yes,” says Griffin. Be persistent and find out what you need to do to get that yes.
9. The journey is usually far more rewarding than the destination
So remember to enjoy the ride: “It’s such a wonderful thing, being a scientist, because you’re in the process of discovery, and that’s a lot of fun.”
10. Be nice to people
Of all the commandments, Griffin says this is ultimately the most important – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because you never know when someone will have something that you want.