So You Want to be a Scientist?


"So You Want to Be a Scientist offers readers a glimpse into the job of being a research scientist. It is not intended to be a step-by-step "how to" book. Rather, it is intended to fill a hole in the education of most would-be scientists, addressing explicitly many issues that are rarely addressed directly in training programs. Starting with thoughts about how to decide whether you'd want to pursue such a career (and if so, how to get started), the book works through some of the obvious topics relevant to a research profession (e.g. how to write ...

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So You Want to be a Scientist?

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"So You Want to Be a Scientist offers readers a glimpse into the job of being a research scientist. It is not intended to be a step-by-step "how to" book. Rather, it is intended to fill a hole in the education of most would-be scientists, addressing explicitly many issues that are rarely addressed directly in training programs. Starting with thoughts about how to decide whether you'd want to pursue such a career (and if so, how to get started), the book works through some of the obvious topics relevant to a research profession (e.g. how to write a paper, give a talk, construct a grant proposal). It also examines less obvious, but equally important topics that are generally incorporated into a research education only by trial and error—e.g., "thinking" like a scientist, negotiating scientific politics, dealing with research ethics, and understanding social interactions. Chapters on the challenges and rewards of a career in research science include reflections on science as art and on the social responsibilities of scientists in the modern world. The book is not designed to convince the reader—one way or another—about a career as a research scientist. Rather, it provides information and insights, based on the author's long career in the laboratory and his rich experience with trainees, that will help the young scientist make better decisions and choices. It may also be useful to teachers, counselors, and parents for a realistic look at the demands and requirements for success in a research career.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There are too few good books about the positives and negatives of research careers in science, books aimed at young people who need to make choices in high school or college or even in graduate school. Philip A. Schwartzkroin, a neurosurgeon who specializes in epilepsy research, has written such a book. His book has something for everyone from high school through graduate school. His focus is a career in research, and nearly everything he says is equally applicable to careers in all the basic and applied sciences. It's a readable book, and I cannot imagine anyone interested in a career in science not finding it enormously useful."—Dan Agin, as reviewed in The Huffington Post

"The author is a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, Davis. Here, he offers 'an invaluable glimpse into the day-to-day life of the researcher' and gives advice on deciding 'whether you'd want to pursue such a career (and, if so, how to get started.'"—As featured in the "What's New in Sciences books section of and Science Book News

"If you're a confused college student, still grasping for some direction in your life, you may have considered a career in research at some point. It's a little daunting to think about, being such a broad field, but Philip Schwartzkroin's helpful book, So You Want to Be a Scientist? makes it surprisingly navigable. Schwartzkroin has obviously experienced what students are going through; his clear and entertaining narrative outlines the whole process, from applying to grad school to working in a faculty position. He explains the challenges and opportunities students will encounter at every step of the journey, and provides advice and encouragement along the way."—As reviewed in The Observer, the student newspaper of Case Western University

So You Want to Be a Scientist? intended as an introduction to the job of a research scientist. The intended audience is a student in college or high school who is contemplating such a career. However, even graduate students and post-doctoral fellows may also benefit from the perspective of a highly successful scientist who has trained and mentored many people...Dr. Schwartzkroin offers many insights and suggestions and discusses issues that, although obvious to most researchers, many young students may not have contemplated or even be aware of....While it is only a single person's viewpoint, the book is unbiased and general enough to be useful to almost anyone contemplating or starting a career as a research scientist. Readers will find this book useful for focusing their own thoughts and perceptions about research, and, hopefully, helping them to make some decisions regarding their personal path."—Saurabh R. Sinha, MD, PhD, as reviewed in Epilepsy & Behavior

"...a crisp new book that should be on the reading list for all young scientists, Philip Schwartzkroin, a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of California Davis, rolls up his sleeves and quickly dispenses with this fairy tale notion of science in which the lone genius dreams up brilliant ideas that change the world. He lays bare the challenges that young scientists will face and the compromises that they may have to make...That the author can engage in these discussions without detracting from the big, beautiful ideas that draw people into science in the first place is a testament to his skill as a writer and mentor...We live in a time of enormous potential for scientific research, but which often feels plagued by a raging epidemic of angst about science as a career. Schwartzkroin's book, combined with a deeper appreciation of the extended value of a PhD, could be a much-needed antidote."—Reviewed by John E. Spiro in Nature Neuroscience

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195333541
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/2/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip A. Schwartzkroin has been a research scientist for over 35 years. He received degrees from Harvard and Stanford Universities, and has held faculty positions at Stanford University, University of Washington, and University of California-Davis. In his career as a neuroscientist, he has focused his research effort on understanding the basic biology of seizures and epilepsy.

Dr. Schwartzkroin has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals, and has a long history of successful grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and from private foundations. He has served in numerous professional leadership roles, including president of the American Epilepsy Society, member of the executive committee of the International League Against Epilepsy, and co-editor-in chief of the premier international epilepsy journal Epilepsia.

He has been recognized for his research contributions with such prestigious awards as the Javits Award from the National Institutes of Health, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Research Recognition Award from the American Epilepsy Society. Through his many years in the laboratory, he has trained and mentored numerous postdoctoral fellows and graduate and undergraduate students many of whom have gone on to establish successful leadership roles in their chosen areas of research.

Dr. Schwartzkroin currently is Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California-Davis, an affiliate of the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, and holds the Bronte Endowed Chair in Epilepsy Research in the UC Davis School of Medicine.

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Table of Contents

1 Getting Started 3

General Comments-What Characterizes a Scientist? 3

Preparation-Education and Experience 6

The Next Step-Postdoctoral Training 11

What Does the Young Scientist Need to Learn? 17

Are There Special "Secrets" to Success? 18

Real-Life Problem 22

2 Career Choices and Laboratory Nitty-Gritty 25

What's the Right Position for You? 25

The Principal Investigator (PI) 26

The Research Scientist 28

Choosing a Path 29

Alternative Science/Research-Related Careers 30

Real-Life Problem 31

3 How to Think Like a Scientist 33

Science as a Thought Process 33

The Challenge of Scientific Thinking 38

Experimental Design and Interpretation 40

Focused Investigation vs. the Big Picture 44

Some Words About Critical Thinking 46

Real-Life Problem 47

4 How to Write a Scientific Paper 49

What is a Scientific Paper? 49

Writing a Paper-How to Start and What to Say 53

Presentation of Data-Figures and Tables 56

Some General Tips About Writing 57

How to Decide Where to Publish 60

Authorship 63

Manuscript Reviewing 64

The Changing Landscape of Scientific Publication 66

Real-Life Problems 69

5 Giving Presentations and Talks 73

The Verbal Presentation-A Fact of Scientific Life 73

Keys to a Good Talk 75

Elements of Style 78

Selling Yourself 80

In the Audience 81

Real-Life Problem 82

6 How to Compose/Submit Grant Applications 85

Grants Are the Lifeblood of Scientific Research 85

The Basic Format 88

Tips and Cautions 93

Grant Revisions and Resubmissions 95

Effective Grant-Writing is an Acquired Skill 99

Summing Up 101

Real-Life Problem 102

7 The Politics of Science 105

The Business of Science is not so Different fromOther Professions 105

Prestige 108

Money 109

Power 113

Leadership 117

Real-Life Problem 120

8 Ethical Conduct of Research 123

Responsible Conduct of Research 123

Scientific Research as a Communal Effort 127

Engagement in Society 130

Real-Life Problems 132

9 Scientific Research as a Creative Enterprise 135

Scientists as Artists 135

Personal Rewards of Creative Enterprise 139

Real-Life Problem 141

10 The Role of the Scientist in Society 143

The Role of Science in Society 143

Prediction 144

Social Responsibility 146

Why Don't People Trust Scientists? 149

The Future of Science in Our Society 150

Real-Life Problem 151

11 Personal Challenges 153

Personal Interactions 153

Self-Esteem/Self-Confidence 156

Commitment to Career 158

Discrimination and Diversity 160

Real-Life Problems 163

12 Rewards and Riches 169

What Kinds of Rewards Do You Really Want From Your Job? 169

Financial Compensation 170

Intellectual Property 172

Other Rewards 175

Real-Life Problems 180

Concluding Thoughts 183

Index 185

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