Three chemistry Nobel laureates share how they select the PhD students and faculty members that join their labs and departments.
For many young researchers entering graduate school for a PhD, a career in academic research is the end goal. Yet the pyramidal career structure doesn’t make this easy for everyone to reach. So, when it comes to finding out how you can get your foot in the door, who better to ask than three of the most successful academic research scientists?
One of my best trips this year was to the 65th Lindau Nobel Meeting. It was set on Lindau Island, a beautiful, picturesque little place in Lake Constance in Germany. And whilst I was there enjoying the sights, I also had the opportunity to speak to some very interesting people. The meeting was an opportunity for hundreds of early-career researchers to meet Nobel Prize winners from across the sciences. They networked, presented and had informal conversations about the scientific life.
This month’s podcast is a collection of conversations and thoughts I had at that meeting with three Chemistry Nobel Laureates: the 2008 Laureate Martin Chalfie from the University of Columbia; Venki Ramakrishnan from the Laboratory of Molecular biology, Cambridge, UK, who won the prize in 2009; and Arieh Warshel from the University of Southern California, the 2013 prize winner.
Amongst other things, we discussed what each of them looks for in PhD students that they take on into their laboratories and faculty members that they hire into their departments. The main message from all laureates I spoke to, not just these three, was that without visible, tangible passion and enthusiasm for the science, it’s going to be difficult for you to get a position in a laboratory.
This lead us nicely onto a discussion about how you communicate this in an interview. And so, in the last part of this podcast, Warshel and Ramakrishnan, share their concerns for young scientists in this endeavour: They understand the importance of being a good communicator, but scientists need to know the limits to this. It’s no good over-selling your work if it means neglecting it, or even fabricating it.