There’s nothing like nature on a fine weekend to revitalize oneself after a rough week in the
trenches laboffice. This weekend, we began Friday evening with a trip to the Neale Woods observatory to view the night sky telescopically–in particular to watch the Perseid Meteor showers.
Apparently, our earthly orbit brings us into contact with the dust trail left by the Perseus comet about once a year. Despite the bad luck of a full moon competing for the night sky, we did see half a dozen meteors. Not exactly a shower, but even the drizzle wasn’t bad. We also had the benefit of a beautiful telescopic view of the moon, Saturn and its rings, and Arcturus, a very bright star in the northern hemisphere. In addition, a naturalist-guided night hike made this a unique experience.
On Saturday and Sunday, I returned to one of my very favorite haunts–one about which I had written about recently in sadness: Lake Zorinsky. After the lake was drained to try to save it from an invading species–the zebra mussel–as an empty mudpot it became a rather unappealing place to walk. It even smelled of rot.
In walking around the rapidly returning lake, I began thinking about one of the issues that has recently been discussed on OT–in particular, what makes a good scientist? Or perhaps more accurately, what makes a scientist good.
I reread Athene’s fascinating blog and the threads on “Do scientists believe in luck?” Coupled with a growing number of gripes that appear–particularly in recent threads–about “lack of luck” ruining young researchers careers, I felt that the time has come to issue my own view of what is the key element needed for a successful career in science.
“Luck,” “fate,” “being in the right place at the right time”–these are certainly things that can advance one’s career. But there are numerous scientists out there who complain about not getting those opportunities, and my experience is that a good number of them wouldn’t recognize these opportunities if they presented themselves on silver platters. In many cases, I think that the inability to recognize scientific opportunities and turn them into significant findings often point out researchers who may be in the wrong career jobs.
No, I have firmly come to the opinion that the number one criterion for being a successful scientist is similar to that of being a successful lake: Resurgence & Resilience.
Every scientist I know takes “knocks,” loses grant funding, has papers rejected. The successful scientists are the ones who don’t moan about it (at least indefinitely–we all moan and complain, that’s natural)–but rather, they are the ones who know how to pick up the pieces, to find the light at the end of the tunnel and come back with a vengeance.
It is easy to complain about “being unlucky,”–that rather absolves researchers of the need to be smart, focused, efficient, accurate and determined. Generally, I don’t buy it. Researchers who have the above-noted traits and are resilient will succeed. I just know it.
Lake Zorinsky in west Omaha, resurging recently.