Have you ever been called to give advice to someone just starting their career?
Heck, have you ever considered giving yourself a career checkup?
Letters To A Young Scientist by Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward O. Wilson is a delight. Twenty one “letters” (actually each is more focused than a letter, how about a great blog post?) shows how the author got into the science business, the coming importance of science, and technology, how to work constructively, where career growth comes from, and mathematics.
Wilson is concerned that too many pre-scientists are scared off early by math bullies, who convince them they don’t know, can’t know enough math to be professional. He’s not against mathematics, just against using math as an early disqualifying tool.
As he sees it, most of research is data collection. After the data is collected and the hypothesis stated, there is some room for someone with a “math toolbox” to assist. A researcher can call on just about any mathematician to get his math.
However, a mathematician without field data to work on is a theorist, scribbling on the white board.
Then magnanimously, Wilson identifies the scientific fields where theoretical math is most valuable.
I have read and watch enough misused math to know that No Matter How Hard You Do The Wrong Thing, It Never Quite Works.
How to pick a career? Start with your passion. That will make it easier to fill in your education. Ph.D.s without a passion have a hard road.
Don’t be afraid to jump to a new passion when it comes along, usually as part of investigating/developing your current passion. Hit hard every swing. Time’s awastin’
New work comes from what you discover in your current work, enlarging, creating context, joining knowledge, creating new opportunities.
This is a book that builds confidence to quit worrying and start doing.
I wish I belonged to a book club where we could give each letter its own session. This book is that good.
Read Letters To A Young Scientist and then give it to someone you love.
Junior Academy – Source of the Future!
As an adolescent we are openly tentative about some things and overly confident about others – are we good enough to play on the team or master abstract math while showing no outward fear at walking along a thin ledge to impress onlookers.
Our tentative side is highly influenced by external sources – be it a math bully claiming ‘you aren’t good enough to understand this’ or Wilson offering encouragement to meet the challenge.
As we grow, the tentative side is less prominent (does not go away) and past successes temper our outlook about future success – success begets more success.
The book seems to deliver a strong message on a number of levels. Thanks for sharing its wisdom.