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5 Tips to Becoming a Killer Scientist Who Changes the World

The secrets to being a high impact scientist. To be shared by scientists, professors, educators, and students. Especially graduate students and anyone who wants to go to graduate school. Read More

Thank you!

Thank you for writing this piece and sharing it with us! I couldn't agree more with everything you have said. I cannot even begin to count the number of scientific articles that have babbled on and on but essentially told me nothing.

Additionally, I've always wanted to become a scientist out of sheer interest. Of course, I'd love to benefit others as much as possible but most of all I'm in it out of curiosity. I want to know what else I could learn and I never want to stop.

"Look for mentors who you would want to drink scotch with on a veranda at 1am. Its something I look for in students." This is fantastic. This is exactly what I would hope for in a professor and/or colleague once I (finally) make it to grad school.

Looking forward to the next piece!

my pleasure

I hope you find the mentor you are looking for in grad school. Thanks for the kind words.

cheers,
Todd

Made my day

As a clinician and presenter and not likely to embark on the scentific path I can still say "hear hear" and fully embrace your words in my field of work. Very liberating piece. My work need to be informed by science and feel very hopeful that there more of you out there. I will surely keep following your blog.
kindly Camilla, Denmark

Insightful!

I am a science major and this article just reaffirmed my decision my major is headed in the right direction. You really made your piece interesting to read and relate-able. I am liberated to know I'm following my major for the right reasons and can continue to be motivated by this piece and reassure me of my decision when times get tough. This just reaffirms the saying people who love their jobs never work a day in their lives.

An interesting new challenge

I'm a graduate student at GMU. Kashdan actually makes me a little more nervous than I was before. The bar seems raised, which may be a good thing. It's hard enough for me to visualize research that I can be passionate about working on down the line, much less research that will make a difference. It also sounds difficult to know where a gap in the literature exists, much less whether your answers will be useful or matter. And then there's "travel incessantly and leave breadcrumbs." I could use some details on that point. Working your research question into a conversation doesn't sound like a bad idea, if that's what he means. After all, it took a train of thought for it to occur to you, too. You can't really assume others will follow the same path there. Maybe you can cook up a 30-second speech explaining how you got to your research question, like a sales pitch. It would save some time, at the very least, when you have to explain yourself. I like the idea of explaining your work, "in a way that can be understood by teenagers". That, to me, is the connection to technical communication.

Choosing good collaborators seems to be the linchpin that makes this possible. There are only so many people that can give killer speeches and network constantly, and only so many people that can be statistical machines. Could this ideal scientist be a team as opposed to describing an individual? I think tip 5 could probably have used more detail, but that's probably why he referenced a book on the subject. I may get it.

step one

Thanks for responding. If you are worried about the bar being raised, still having difficulty finding gaps in the literature, and believe that this blog post is about ideal scientists as opposed to any and all scientists, then this is a sign that you might need to learn more about your discipline before taking the next step of creating novel contributions. There is something to be said about 10,000 hours of work before becoming an expert.

the first step to making a big impact is being motivated to make a big impact. Before that, your motivation might simply be to feel comfortable and knowledgeable in your area.

But what if you looked at this blog post as an opportunity and not a threat?

And this blog post might serve another purpose which is when you read other people's work, what impacts you and what doesn't? Listen to talks, read books, devour articles.

I hope you reach a point where you don't view impact as being for only the select few- the brightest, the strongest, the wisest. Its a call for all thinkers who try to offer an audience something to chew on.

cheers,
Todd

Response to Article

I think the article is very insightful; not only relating to writing and research in the academia world, but also in the real world as well. Even though the article talks about being a better scientist, you write the article in a humorous way that is easy to relate to, not only as a writer but as a human being. You ask, "If everything worked out exactly as expected what would the field learn?" This question is true for every study because it is based on trial and error. Nothing is perfect and with some valuable time and research, the outcome or design if you will, becomes perfect over time.

Besides science, it relates to writing and research as well because when crafting a great article or a proposal, you need to go through trial and error to asking the right questions, finding the right sources for interviews, attend meetings/events that relate to the topic, and making sure every piece fits together overall. You talk about relating to an audience, focusing on what the audience wants by "giving them something concrete to talk about and do. Change their perspective." If what you want to research is meaningful to you, your audience will be interested as well because they will relate to your passion. If you make your research interesting and enthusiastic, the audience will be enthused as well and will want to learn more about that topic.

Topic four is about creating strong partnerships, which is necessary and true for every given project. I think it is also about networking; getting to know certain people within a field to know who you would work best with on a project or in a team. If you get to know people within the same field, you can figure out how they would help contribute to the research. It comes back to creating a solid project and capturing the audiences attention also.

broadening out

Thanks, I agree, there is nothing special about science here. And I have received quite a few emails from artists, parents, and athletes who said the same thing.

cheers,
Todd

Response to Article

I think the article is very insightful; not only relating to writing and research in the academia world, but also in the real world as well. Even though the article talks about being a better scientist, you write the article in a humorous way that is easy to relate to, not only as a writer but as a human being. You ask, "If everything worked out exactly as expected what would the field learn?" This question is true for every study because it is based on trial and error. Nothing is perfect and with some valuable time and research, the outcome or design if you will, becomes perfect over time.

Besides science, it relates to writing and research as well because when crafting a great article or a proposal, you need to go through trial and error to asking the right questions, finding the right sources for interviews, attend meetings/events that relate to the topic, and making sure every piece fits together overall. You talk about relating to an audience, focusing on what the audience wants by "giving them something concrete to talk about and do. Change their perspective." If what you want to research is meaningful to you, your audience will be interested as well because they will relate to your passion. If you make your research interesting and enthusiastic, the audience will be enthused as well and will want to learn more about that topic.

Topic four is about creating strong partnerships, which is necessary and true for every given project. I think it is also about networking; getting to know certain people within a field to know who you would work best with on a project or in a team. If you get to know people within the same field, you can figure out how they would help contribute to the research. It comes back to creating a solid project and capturing the audiences attention also.

Response to Article

I think the article is very insightful; not only relating to writing and research in the academia world, but also in the real world as well. Even though the article talks about being a better scientist, you write the article in a humorous way that is easy to relate to, not only as a writer but as a human being. You ask, "If everything worked out exactly as expected what would the field learn?" This question is true for every study because it is based on trial and error. Nothing is perfect and with some valuable time and research, the outcome or design if you will, becomes perfect over time.

Besides science, it relates to writing and research as well because when crafting a great article or a proposal, you need to go through trial and error to asking the right questions, finding the right sources for interviews, attend meetings/events that relate to the topic, and making sure every piece fits together overall. You talk about relating to an audience, focusing on what the audience wants by "giving them something concrete to talk about and do. Change their perspective." If what you want to research is meaningful to you, your audience will be interested as well because they will relate to your passion. If you make your research interesting and enthusiastic, the audience will be enthused as well and will want to learn more about that topic.

Topic four is about creating strong partnerships, which is necessary and true for every given project. I think it is also about networking; getting to know certain people within a field to know who you would work best with on a project or in a team. If you get to know people within the same field, you can figure out how they would help contribute to the research. It comes back to creating a solid project and capturing the audiences attention also.

I like the way the article is

I like the way the article is written. Creating steps and then explaining them through comical yet sensible reasoning worked for me as a reader. The first tip definitely connects to what we discussed in class last week about how doing research on something you care about is important to your work. As well as, how doing research on something you are not passionate about could lead to time wasted and a bunch of information you don't care about. I felt Kashdan was definitely trying to keep the article relevant with references to angry birds and how children with ADHD have stressed out parents.

The second tip is where I began to reflect more heavily on how this article could help or hinder my thinking process about my research topic. Because although it is relatively easily to say how medical ethics or the digital divide (my two potential topics) connect to professional writing and rhetoric. How do I get my research to reflect that so I can have an impact that goes outside the classroom? Also, I can relate to the comment about visiting the Capitol Building in Richmond, VA; I'm from there and I don't remember how it looks.

I think Kashdan made a good point on how to relay the research as though you were presenting it to teenagers. It doesn't necessarily say a lot about your audience; however that's where doing your research comes into play and how well your context relates to your audience. I'm sure that's also how as a researcher, I will know what jokes to make and what challenges to expect. I think having your research challenged constructively will ultimately improve how the information is received, as well as what the audience will gain from it (insert impact reaction here).

I would definitely say teamwork is an awesome thing. I kind of feel like I got stiffed on tip five, I would have preferred to have the same amount of detail as the other tips. But I got the point nonetheless, that was actually one of my new years resolutions, to write something every week. I didn't put a time/day constraint on it because you never know when inspiration will strike.

Nice Article

“5 Tips to Becoming a Killer Scientist…” is an article I think anyone, not just researchers or scientists, can benefit from reading. Todd Kashdan tells us that the key to good research is to be a good researcher. His idea of what makes for a good researcher sounds like my definition of a cool person: someone who possesses curiosity, self-discipline, empathy, inspiration, an open-mind, and self-awareness, in addition to other likeable personal characteristics.

As we discussed in class, his number one tip is to let passion and a curiosity be our “compass.” Passion and curiosity create the foundation for self-fulfillment and success in all aspects of life, but it never hurts to be reminded of it.

The importance of impactful research links Kashdan’s second and third tips. He wants researchers to conduct research that will make a difference in the real world. Impactful research is the kind that doesn’t lead to blatantly obvious results. Some things in life don’t need to be proven through studies. His point: pointless research is a waste of time and good research has a purpose.

A good researcher considers the effects that the outcome of said research will have on society before and during the time the research is being done. I like this tip a lot because considering the impact of a research goal reached and its potential impact keeps the researcher focused on the end goal and the purpose of the effort being put forth.

Considering the impact of research means taking the mainstream, non-scientific, non-academic population into consideration. Basically, Kashdan says researchers need to strategize rhetorically if they want their research to hold any significance. In short, researchers should exercise showmanship and consider their audience.

One thing I wish Kashdan would have expanded on is his point about “travel[ling] excessively” and “leav[ing] breadcrumbs for people to follow.” He suggests that the Internet isn’t going to cut it in terms of getting research noticed, but he doesn’t really provide any alternative strategies. I assume he means presenting at conferences and conversing at parties, but I’m just inferring.

Tips four and five relate to time management and maintaining a positive and productive environment, which is accomplished by avoiding people and things that don’t add anything beneficial to the mix. Once again, these are tips that are applicable to life in general.

Overall, Kashdan provides some really uplifting insight into what it takes to produce good research. I’m look forward to reading the next five tips he says he’s going to post.

GMU Grad Student

Current and aspiring professionals would greatly benefit from reading Kashdan’s article. He encourages and inspires researchers to pursue questions that they are personally interested in, not necessarily the hottest trend in the field. This advice, while it seems obvious, has been over looked for decades in the research community as professions are searching for fulfillment through published articles and structured results. Kashdan is able to look past the published reward and understands the process and the things necessary to make this enjoyable as well as a way to make an impact on the world. Traditionally researchers have placed self-imposed restrictions on the field, keeping it rigid and lacking energy.

He makes note to build strong partnerships - in a professional world this is important. As we work to refine our skills and develop new ones it’s clear that we will never be able to be proficient at everything. Working with individuals that you trust and respect is important not only for the project but for your personal well-being. These work relationships create successful projects because the group remains motivated in pursing an answer.

Kashdan’s outlook is very mindful of the researcher as a whole that will preserve the science behind research while crafting it into a refined and soulful journey. I think the most prominent point that he makes to researchers is truly understanding and identifying their purpose in the field. More than likely they won’t be published, but that their success should be defined by their own standards, rather than those of their peers. In accepting this notion, researchers should feel free and compelled to study those things that interest them the most without fear of feeling foolish. After all it is their personal journey with the added benefit of improving the world.

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, thanks!

Overall great tips

After reading Kashdan’s article, I thought to myself, “easier said than done.” Let your passion and curiosity be your guide is a phenomenal tip, but what about all those competing priorities that take time away from what it is that you really want to research or study? I’m reflecting on the readings as well as this article when I bring into question other aspects like funding, resources, and priorities. Wanting to become a killer scientist and having the means to do it is left to be said.

How would you know if there is a gap in the literature before attempting to answer your research question? This would be very challenging. Also, if you are being told not to look at public opinion polls or what other people are studying, how do you know if your topic is meaningful or would even be received well by the public/other scientists? Sometimes seeing what other people are studying could serve as a launching point for your own research. Kashdan’s comments on praying to false idols struck me because many technical communicators or scientists focus on getting published as a means of establishing themselves, and I don’t feel that this is necessarily wrong. In many fields, you have to get the dry administrative piece done before you can really work outside the box and focus on what it is you are passionate about and often times this means building off of what has already been established.

Collaboration is a huge factor in the technical communicator’s field as in the world of science and research, so here Kashdan was right on target. Surrounding oneself with the appropriate workers and friends is beneficial and necessary. Kashdan described the significance of impact and how one should “be everywhere that area is being discussed.” Here, I think Kashdan has the right idea, but again, funding and resources play a large role in achieving what Kashdan describes as his tips to becoming a killer scientist.

The last two tips I particularly enjoyed. I appreciated the James Bond portion of the article as even scientists can be great presenters. The driest of information can be made to be interactive and interesting with the right approach. Lastly, creating meaningful time is essential for any researcher or any person working on any assignment. Scheduling time to work and time to play is a technique that I use daily. It keeps your mind sharp and balanced.

Overall great tips

After reading Kashdan’s article, I thought to myself, “easier said than done.” Let your passion and curiosity be your guide is a phenomenal tip, but what about all those competing priorities that take time away from what it is that you really want to research or study? I’m reflecting on the readings as well as this article when I bring into question other aspects like funding, resources, and priorities. Wanting to become a killer scientist and having the means to do it is left to be said.

How would you know if there is a gap in the literature before attempting to answer your research question? This would be very challenging. Also, if you are being told not to look at public opinion polls or what other people are studying, how do you know if your topic is meaningful or would even be received well by the public/other scientists? Sometimes seeing what other people are studying could serve as a launching point for your own research. Kashdan’s comments on praying to false idols struck me because many technical communicators or scientists focus on getting published as a means of establishing themselves, and I don’t feel that this is necessarily wrong. In many fields, you have to get the dry administrative piece done before you can really work outside the box and focus on what it is you are passionate about and often times this means building off of what has already been established.

Collaboration is a huge factor in the technical communicator’s field as in the world of science and research, so here Kashdan was right on target. Surrounding oneself with the appropriate workers and friends is beneficial and necessary. Kashdan described the significance of impact and how one should “be everywhere that area is being discussed.” Here, I think Kashdan has the right idea, but again, funding and resources play a large role in achieving what Kashdan describes as his tips to becoming a killer scientist.

The last two tips I particularly enjoyed. I appreciated the James Bond portion of the article as even scientists can be great presenters. The driest of information can be made to be interactive and interesting with the right approach. Lastly, creating meaningful time is essential for any researcher or any person working on any assignment. Scheduling time to work and time to play is a technique that I use daily. It keeps your mind sharp and balanced.

Thought provoking

The first response I had to this piece was to question whether or not I am up for the challenge to develop a research project that will make a difference in the scheme of things. The second was to send this to a friend of mine gearing up for his own research project in molecular biology. That was possibly the aspect of this article that was most interesting and useful: that it could apply across broad spans of research and projects.

Kashdan is challenging us to consider topics that we are passionate about, to consider what has been done already and to find a gap in what has been done that could impact the area of study. Going back to my friend who is studying molecular biology, I often find myself envious of him for the simple fact that his research is already more valuable to the public at large than my own because our society is obsessed with advances in treatments of sicknesses. Luckily for him, that is precisely what he is interested in. However, reading this made me consider that perhaps the research I will do should be just as intriguing and have as much impact, but just in a different discipline. The benefits of technical communication and rhetoric are that the field is so expansive that it is more difficult to narrow potential issues and problems to address than it is to find them.

So, here is the next impasse. After realizing that technical communication research could matter and make a practical impact, it is necessary to think about what you’re doing and why, and address a gap in the literature or in the field. This article seems to challenge us to do research that makes a bigger impact, but also to be more proactive about how that research is presented, communicated and made useful. I think these suggestions to improve the visibility of research and connections with other researchers are useful and important, but I think the last point to make time was especially important. It is intimidating to consider research topics and how to make a difference, and even more exhausting to actually put the time into conducting that research. I think a small reminder to just set small parcels of time aside and to not feel guilty when you can’t is one of the best pieces of advice to keep things in perspective. Thanks for sharing these tips!!!

The big (and relevant)

The big (and relevant) criticism of social science research is the lack of replication. These tips just reinforce this by encouraging people to work on what gets noticed. The reality check is that for research to me impactful it needs to be replicated on relevant cohorts.

Bill

Misattributed quote

It was the author Kahlil Gibran, not your colleague Ann, who originally said "Work is love made visible."

thanks!

thanks, this is the beauty of the internet, constant self-correcting mechanisms.

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Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your 'Good' Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment more...

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