I thought I’d come up with something close to my heart. It has been over six years I finished my PhD. And yes, there were ups and downs like any PhD fellow. During my PhD and Postdoc, I have been privileged to have mentored several graduate researchers and advised them the pitfalls and provided some suggestions to make a successful PhD. Oftentimes, the current generation of PhD researchers fail to follow some rules or etiquettes whence their PhD. I don’t mean that not all would fall under this line but many of those whom I have mentored, are pretty good, intelligent, think independently and yet miss some very basic and important things in converting their thoughts into actions. These suggestions are specifically aimed at researchers from Indian sub-continent although a few points might match with the western perspective.
1. Understand the problem: Ask the Whys’, Wheres’, Whichs’ and Whens’
If your supervisor or mentor gives you the problem, just try asking the Whs and probably you would have an answer for the other – ‘How.’ And importantly also the ‘Wh.. NOTs’ as well, viz. why not this, why not that? where is this not applied?
2. Don’t give up!
Many a time, you may not be an expert in things. Making an attempt is always a nice thing to start your research (sub-)topic. This will provide you avenues to continue working on the problem. Don’t ever give up unless it is beyond the capacity. If incapacitated, take the next step. You are not alone failing every time.
3. Learn to collaborate NOT compete
This is a very important step whence your PhD. Perhaps, this should be your epitome of success in setting your career goals for the next few years until you take up a tenure-track position or if you plan to move to industry. You tend to meet people from different backgrounds. Some are above your expectations ( the other way is you might be par their expectations or less?). This should set your twinkle. Join their group, be prepared for inviting them for a cup of coffee/tea meetings, share your ideas, bring enthusiasm to learn and collaborate. And importantly, forget to “compete” with your colleague. You are not asked to win a PhD but you are working to win for a PhD. Get the difference?
4. Keep positive frame of mind
Have you ever invited negativity? Of course we are all humans, we do that. Then you might be wondering what is this positive frame of mind. Learn to invite positive thoughts. For every work you do or drive, keep positive vibes which will allow you to focus on positive life.
5. Don’t be workaholic.
Working for 15 hours a day doesn’t allow you to make an effective PhD. Perhaps working for ‘time-honored’ hours gives you a good PhD. When you are at work, stay focused, keep away your mobile phones, gadgets and social bookmark penning! Make a strict time frame in using them for a few minutes every three hours. It ain’t taking you away. You could still keep your mind afresh.
6. Start early! keep and wake-up early!
Many of my mentees and colleagues have had sleep disorders. I find their skype notifications and a few e-mailing midnight. Wonder how I knew this? Sorry I was as well a victim of this, but I am a changed man today. I realized what and how it takes to have a good seven hours sleep especially between 10 PM and 4 AM. Common, don’t invite troubles for the doctors and police to fire an alarm at PhD fellows please. We need effective PhDs and you should be among them!
7. Friends, Family and Fun
Keep a day off from your lab work and spend some time with your family. This generation uses a lot of time on mobile phones and gadgets. You might be getting drained. Your poor brain and body needs rest. Don’t you dare to spend time at work seven days a week! Discuss your thoughts and challenges with a non-biologist or a person who is completely new to your field. You know what? you will get some wonderful ideas from them. Please mark my words!
8. Tomorrow never dies!
I am not talking about the movie! You might have a bad day at work. I had countless and they are aashirvad ( blessings in disguise) . Just go out and freak yourself. Have a good cup of coffee or drink and remember to start your day next again on a bright note. Don’t forget to brood and discuss with your colleagues/boss the solutions on your project for the bad day you had. Stop don’t reveal them your day out, that is a secret you know 😉 After all these solutions will allow you to make a every day report for your eventual PhD
9. Accept your mistakes.
To err is human, Did a great mistake at work? Just accept it and go on. Listen to the advices and suggestions ( … and perhaps scoldings/brats). And the greatest thing you could do is not to commit the same mistake again! And don’t blame your computer algorithm or your gadget, after all the programs are written by humans like you and me!
10. Pass on the baton!
You might have been done with a successful PhD. Of course apart from acknowledgments, frequent e mails what do you think is the best gift you could give back to your mentors? A good application of your PhD? a good scientific career next? To me, it is raising a person like you. Pass on the baton, don’t forget that! after all, you reaped benefits from your Guru. There are many people waiting for their Gurus as well!
All the best!
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Yes, we bade good-bye to the year 2016. Season’s greetings and best wishes for the new year 2017. Resolutions, Re-promises and Raining ideas, of course would be a part of your scientific career every year. But to those who are in the early career phase and are working towards a good scientific temperament, I ‘d encourage you to consider the following. Wondering why “Ten,” if they could be more ( or even less)? Our human intuition listens to such scores
- Live up-to your expectations: Yes, not your mentor’s or well-wishers’. But yourself. Sometimes, we miss that and it is time, we watch out on the things what we have overlooked when we had resolutions set for last year.
- Review an article: We overlook writing research reviews and to those who have never ventured writing a review, please write the one. It is a learning experience.
- Bring thoughts at your best: Be positive. keep your mind active. Accept criticism and move ahead. There are people amidst us who suggest us. Please take it, accept it and try to implement it if your heart says so.
- Keep smiling: How many of us keep smiling and have a healthy laugh every day? We could count on with fingers. A lot of time invariably seem to be spent on keeping your head down and swiping your fingers with your phone ( I don’t use cellular phones, thanks heavens!). It might sound bit proactive, but please reconsider showing your healthy smile before you go to sleep. Your family members need you amidst your busy schedules.
- Review other articles: If you think you have gained enough experience, why not review other articles on journal board? And yes, get incentives with Publons.com and ensure you share your peer-reviews.
- Open: Open your key deliverables to the world. Bring it wide open, ensure they comment on (y)our thoughts, ideas that we necessitate it for future use.
- Donate: Please donate your time and energy for scientific causes. Please post news in public fora that you think could be shared.
- Stop the peer-pressure: Ask for a transparent opinion. Being open doesn’t mean that you are transparent. Invite your peers for an open discussion and share your thoughts, disagree in an agreeable way.
- Payback: Please ensure you use payback loyalty program ( if you are in India) where you can earn points for every (even scientific) shopping you make. And don’t stop there, please convert those points for donating it to less-privileged. needless to mention, this is same as spending your miles when you fly
- Calendar: Prioritize your calendar. I keep reminded of one quote, that goes on saying, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” How true! Isn’t it?
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I thought I’d ask him to stop chewing Tobacco on the condition that I will get my shoes repaired with him. At first instance, he smiled with his red (tobacco) mouth and immediately as if he has gained consciousness threw at me several questions:
Sir, If the shoe doesn’t shine for next few days or the inner sole does wear, you may give the money back. After several deliberations, he agreed that he’d stop using Tobacco but insisted that he is not agreeing to this for the money he is earning, but the confidence that he has on/for his job.
I came back silently as if I was defeated. This begs me a question if we can take this analogy:
As researchers, we are compounded with problems, viz. rebuttals, peer-review, justifications, making changes to the works, writing grants etc., Sometimes the stance we take on our proposals, the commitment we keep towards meeting deadlines, can we ever reach out to that confidence level such persons like this have?
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September 5 is one of my favorite days in a calendar year and at the same time, a day to remember. While it is Teachers’ day, the birthday of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan a day to holistically revere Guru or Teacher, it is as well the day, Mother Theresa who left for Abode. This day in the year is a special one as it is Ganesh Chaturdhi, the Elephant God’s birthday, the one whom we refer as an epitome of success and removal of obstacles. The common thing is all the three have led their path and they have shown what it takes to achieve pinnacle of success.
I take this opportunity to thank my Gurus for their blessings. What would be the best gift we give back to Guru? The best I could think of is reaching unto their expectations. I don’t think any Guru would be just happy alone with pleasantries, gifts and frequent reverences we make to them. Let us strive for reaching their expectations. And what do we mean by expectations? Expectations in profession or life? As I get reminded of a proverb, “Every action has its seed in a thought and every thought is a creation of the thinker, the soul.” The Gurus instigate those thoughts in us and allow us to become a complete human being. Like many, I have been selflessly taught and provided constructive criticism by my Gurus, peers, mentors, mentees, anonymous peer+reviewers, collaborators, colleagues and not to forget the profession. I am dutifully bound to their time and energy.
What worries me is that the current generation cease to continue this necessary influx of revering the Gurus. The baton that was passed to them is not continually transmitted to the next generation. As a researcher, there are ways ‘entities’ we could bring in practice else we may have to start worrying about hippocratic oath.
I remain with a quote from none other than Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan: When we think we know we cease to learn.
Let us not stop knowing. Inquisitiveness has got it’s own meaning and we need to pass on the baton that our revered Gurus have given us. Shouldn’t we?
To all my Gurus and mentors
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While the traditional ‘Hippocratic Oath’ 1 pertains to medical profession, seldom do we talk about definite ethical aspects on publishing research by scientists2. In the recent-past, the ethics statements, conflict of interests, mutual agreement of authors on the manuscripts has received a fair amount of inspection. Relevant to this point, various journals have been serving the community to meet this scrutiny3. As an early career scientist, I am as well carried away by the spurge of publications, at the same time as I am reminded about the way to foster collaborations, relationships and meeting the expectations of my mentors and coworkers. I have a fair conception that the researchers should be guided by reasons not emotions amid ‘publish or perish’ adage. On the other hand, multitasking research and publishing has become a noticeable goal, but combining these tasks over time and not at the same time has become the need of the hour. In today’s reserved funding situation, many early career researchers face a daunting task to establish and develop their research programs. To safe-guard their tenurity, they often try to start their own labs crowd sourcing or obtaining funds from their previous associations/host institutions and publish it. But to what extent are we trying to preserve the fairness or integrity of science? If either of the above cases fails, the researcher is captured with loss of expectations and might bring down transformative research with his/her creativity dropping by the wayside. Through this article, I would like to draw your attention on the following five points that we researchers often give a miss and so if taken a pledge in the form of ‘Hippocratic Oath for scientists’, would ensure keeping the research vitality in the best interests of science to sustain excellence:
Advocate for science, not yourself
Personal fulfillment in one’s own talents is dangerous. Fostering competitiveness and altruism for science as opposed to advocating for ourselves should be the key to success4.
2. Focus on the merit of other publications, not self-approbating your publications
Many researchers self-cite their publications which is a bad practice. In this process, they miss citing the articles that are of high standards and so the research index and impact of the authors would be unfairly increased. The redundant articles in author index websites like Research Gate (researchgate.net) and Academia.edu are deceitfully uploaded which should be avoided.
Be creative and define success by practising introspection
Introspection should be considered as a feature for being conscious on what and how we publish our research. Has open access paved way for leewaying a successful peer-review? Can we overcome this sham?
Reconsidering review of your research
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) ensures there is an eyeglass retrospection of publications: http://publicationethics.org/resources/guidelines. It is time we thanked our anonymous reviewers. Many journals have opened this acknowledgment section.
5. Persistence is the key: Pass on the baton to the next generation
One of the most successful things, we as scientists could do is continuity which would allow us to approve consistency and credibility as best practices in research. One should not forget in passing the trend to the next generation.
- Levine M (1948). The Hippocratic Oath in modern dress. Cinci J Med. 29(5):257-62.
- Deren MM (2014). The Hippocratic Oath: it’s not what it used to be. Conn Med. 78(9):563-5.
- Smith KA (2013). Scientific scholarship and impact factors. Front. Immunol. 4:79.
- Nature Immunology Editorial (2009): Borrowing words, or claiming them? Nature Immunology 10, 22. http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v10/n3/full/ni0309-225.html
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When you pursue a PhD, you would come across several inhibitions, and many a time you need to counter them with will and passion.
The first, please don’t you worry what of your PhD but consider thinking how this career will reach you address the goals. Please keep away some inhibitions like, eligibility criterion and thoughts like whether or not this degree in certain specific subject would have been yielded more results. Just keep positives and ensure your goals are reached.
Second, you are not a master. Please keep down-to-earthness always. Ask for inquisitiveness, yearn for understanding, be passionate about what you do.
Third, never look down your peers. The other way round is respect your peers, criticise constructively and importantly take home and give back to the world what you have learnt!
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The last six weeks, I have been limping like a small frog. The reason: I skid and fell down and had a major ligament (type 3) sprain in my right leg. While I was there in the hospital for couple of days, I put positive frame of mind in attending my lab/office after five days, of course, then still limping. I have indeed become paraplegic!
Then came the thoughts on how a couple of my mentors and good well-wishers who are a reputed scientists in the field could overcome these barriers in life. My sincere appreciations for their cause of ‘doing science and research’ that they have been making for years. Truly applaudable! While sparing thoughts for such scientists, I asked if it were a hindrance for doing science. It was, to me at least certainly both physically and emotional pain that I have gone through (and still going through) for weeks now. I don’t think I have overcome this but I can sense what it takes for such people to overcome:
- Science is the only word they are passionate about. They keep scientific and societal challenges as one.
- They consider themselves like “regulons” and so they are not worried about what suppresses or activates them.
- They are willing to help, spend time and most importantly do NOT worry about their disability.
- To them, there is only one entity: The goal of serving the cause: Be it science or society!
Let us proudly present the people whom we know are doing science, research and help us get inspired and motivated. Let us be selfish for the reason being we are all humans.
I have two eminent scientists to mention:
Dr. G Bhanuprakash Reddy, Senior Scientist at National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad who is also my mentor
Dr. Sivaramaiah Nallapeta, a good friend of mine and who works as a Senior Scientist for Nanotemper technologies, Bangalore.
They are well known. A simple google search takes them everywhere.
My sincere salutations Bhanu and Sheev!
Prash for Bioclues.org
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