Stephen Wiley on young scientists

“Why are so many young scientists so reluctant to consider alternative careers? My experience suggests that it is, in part, due to [their] obsessive-compulsive nature…”

- Stephen Wiley, writing in The Scientist

Scientists, who must deploy stubborn tenacity to succeed with experiments and hypothesis that so often fail, often apply the same mindset to their careers. According to Wiley, the idea that they can make it in the research profession becomes just another hypothesis that, with a lot of hard work, can ultimately be proven.

Wily, on the other hand, thinks that a bit more tough love is in order. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how much luck you have; it is not likely to lead to success without fundamental talent: the ability to see connections and patterns and to come up with a multitude of ideas and hypotheses. In Wiley’s experience, most young scientists who are pushed out of the system – or jump – end up in far better place.

The desire to stay at the bench at all costs is not all down to the persistence of the young scientists, however. Wiley also blames “self-interested faculty members” who view their charges as “a source of cheap labor”.

You can read the entire piece without a subscription to The Scientist.