Words of Wisdom from @vectorgen

For the CIDD grads of twitter, Jason Rasgon (@vectorgen) should be in your news feed. Jason tweets about making it in academia, the life scientific, and his general research updates. In one of my favorite recent threads, Jason lists rules to follow for those of us interested in following the path to tenure (and beyond) in academia.

Here’s the list, in the order they were tweeted:

  1. Hard work is required for success, but it is, in of itself, not enough. You need to be lucky.
  2. Sometimes luck can be more important than hard work.
  3. Luck can turn at any moment. Never forget that.
  4. The data are the data are the data.
  5. If you have the proper controls, there is no such thing as a failed experiment.
  6. All outcomes should be publishable.
  7. Never attempt to merely make the grade. Instead endeavor to be bulletproof.
  8. Anything worth doing is worth not just doing well; it’s worth overdoing.
  9. Persevere! One quality that often separates the successful from the unsuccessful is not intelligence, talent, or creativity. It is sheer bloody-minded persistence.
  10. Funding is a random process.
  11. Be mercenary in your approach to funding. Apply for everything that you can even vaguely make yourself fit. Use a shoehorn if necessary.
  12. Publish Early. Publish Often. Publish yesterday.
  13. There are 3 categories of papers: Papers in press, papers in review, and papers you’re working on. Always strive to have at least one paper in each category at all times (more than 1 is better)
  14. NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK!!! You will always need letter writers, references etc… beyond your PhD and postdoc advisors.
  15. Look out for yourself. No one else will do it for you
  16. Know your worth, both to yourself and to others.
  17. Do not have loyalty to your institution; they don’t have any for you. Never fool yourself; a tenure-track job is a mutually beneficial business arrangement. Do what is best for you.
  18. Have loyalty to your people, but in the same vein do not expect unconditional loyalty from them. They ultimately have to do what’s best for them, not for you. Your best people may be the quickest to leave. This is a feature, not a bug.
  19. Treat everyone you meet with respect, no matter who they are, or what they do.
  20. Don’t feel guilty about wanting a life outside of work. Your job is not your life
  21. It’s almost never personal. Don’t make it so.
  22. You can do everything right and still lose.
  23. You can do everything wrong and still win.
  24. There’s no such thing as basic vs. applied science. There’s just good science and bad science. Do good science. (Told to me by Bruce Hammock way back when I was a a wet-behind-the-ears PhD student. I still live by this)
  25. Your lab members are not your family. They are not your friends. They are mentees, trainees, & employees. It may be fun to have one big happy lab family, but sooner or later you’re going to have to pull rank. You can’t easily switch from buddy to boss without bruised feelings
  26. The lab is not a democracy. It’s a friendly dictatorship
  27. Lab members may, from time to time, seek to subvert the dictatorship (i.e. do stuff you counseled them not to do). It’s often good to turn a blind eye to this, significant advances may result (i.e. your people may know the system better than you do)

The rules seem like good rules to live by. Good rules to live by generally, not just for scientists or academics. My personal favorite is #24: do good science. Andrew has told me this before and it’s a simple rule that makes tenure-track sound a lot less complex and intimidating than it is sometimes made out to be. Thanks @vectorgen for the pearls of insight and here’s to a future in science!

About johannaohm

Jo Ohm is a trail runner and scientist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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