Young scientists and the challenges


Rajesh Chaudhary | 11/20/2011 11:48 AM

With the advancement of the science and the technology, the pace of research works have increased in an unprecedented way and so is the number of research papers — particularly in the molecular health science, which is not really surprising. The surprising thing is only the way we work and the challenges we face these days in these research work. Technological advancement was supposed to alleviate the work load and facilitate the working strategies, which is of course in a way its working its way out, but the level of tribulation in the working space have somehow able to manage itself with the increment in the technology which fairly doesn’t show any sign of abate. So, the gist of this issue is we still have the same physical and mental ail as we use to have some 10/20 years back.

In the verge of finding the real reason of this bewildering milieu, I was awaked to know that the real reason for this is not something that has self-arise but it is something contrived and artificial. The confusion is not in finding the topic neither for the research nor in anyway related to the technological bafflement, but it is something synthetic — social, political, emotional, geographical, and more importantly the fear of losing. And, this is a universal reason as I have been able to garner from a tyro to the novel laureates — the view is simple — “It is contrived and synthetic”. These are some of those countable problems which can very easily be sorted out and it doesn’t even sound something that is unreachable. Small bit of homework and understanding pertaining the problem can help to over the problem and can thus be mitigated.

In the Annual Lindau Noble Laureate Meeting of 2010, the young scientist representing the different parts of the world from the diverse research background shared the same experience. According to the young scientists (agreed upon by all present there) the major problem behind all this is the relationship with their advisor, co-advisor and their mentor and most importantly the leeway they have to present their ideas in the lab and moreover, its about believing them — a sense of understanding that, ‘Ok, s/he can do it’. The creativity lies in the understanding and when the students are allowed to express themselves and their understanding to their fullest. Everybody should be allowed to vent on the issues. If this would not have been the one reason, there would have been no reason on conducting the journal clubs, seminars and lab meetings. The motif is crystal clear — “We should share and must share our thoughts and understandings”.

In the modern research arena, the spot light is always on the advisor, co-advisor and the person guiding the graduate students for the research work. But, now, it’s the time to turn the spotlight; at least for a while for the closer examination on the understanding of the student’s astuteness . Because the root of the problem lies deep inside the student’s courtyard and the interesting thing is that even the solution to the problems lies just there, which is often unwittingly ignored. The thing is, students should be allowed to exercise their freedom of thoughts when it comes to working in the lab and should not be fettered with the chains of laws, rules and lab principles including their restrictions of following the orders of their mentors. To simplify more — let them feel the fresh air and let them come out of dungeon of restrictions.

Politics and family and geographical limitations are another such big examples that has to be tackled very prudently. There are graduate students those who have to manage their married life and at the same time show their potential in handling their research job — its really tough to get into the balancing act.

Pushing boundaries

There are uncountable numbers of examples to learn from, but the question is who will push the boundaries out and make room for one. The examples of such boundaries are endless. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to be cynical. There are still big solutions to big problems. The solution to the problems likes in the student itself and how they take their jobs and how do they communicate with others when it comes to maintaining their work and their relationship with others. So, as it is well said, ‘Prevention is better than cure’. We should strictly follow this dictum. Prevention in terms of finding the mentor who can provide more time to the students in the lab and who is not engaged in other extra-curricular activities beside their own main stream research work. Make sensible decision of not hurting your mentors and guide while at the same time should develop the temerity to challenge them rather than pleasing them. Our mentors do not like to read all our excellent result which has not been clearly and precisely explained — avoid messy method and follow the strict guidelines when it comes to writing proposals, papers and justifying your results. Check your work twice or thrice before you make sure that it is ready to be submitted to the mentor for the final reading. Do as much as you can by yourself and do not bother them with wonted questions for which you can find answer by yourself.

Monetary problems

The most significant problem young scientists are facing is the monetary problems. Thus, degrees like PhD has become a good way of hiring the cheap serf for the research work and because of that the credibility of PhD has been losing every day and marring the real reputation of PhD it use to have. Working sometimes more than 15 hours for a PhD person is not an exception and no more a surprise thing for any PhD students with the stipend which is not enough to meet the needs of a single family. How would you think one can handle research work with all those pressure in mind every time and every second? Finding a good grant needs one to be standing on their own and making their own identity. No companies or institutes would believe in funding without a good strong proposal having a direct significant impact on the society.

Breaking geographical barrier

There is a need to break the geographical barrier if you want to learn something new — something different that will help to hone your capabilities. If you want to broaden the horizon of your knowledge, it is better to explore the world with various kind of activities including meetings, seminars, presentation, short-term research and summer and winter schools. You must need to have hands-on on things if you really want to feel the real experience of research, and for that, it is better to travel and get into it rather than reading papers on one corner of your cubicle. Understanding the people and getting conversant with the environment is not a cakewalk. It consumes time and money at the same time by the time we are able to work with full concentration. Common misunderstanding on taking things different creates some problem. But, once again, it should not be taken as cynical thoughts, but as something that really makes you stronger to handle and tackle the problems.

But, finally, the good news is that scenario has started to change and it is changing. These days’ graduate students are given more responsibilities in handing their work and their lab on their own — which has dramatically and significantly changed the way we use to work few years back. And, the direction of the spot light has been veered to tackle more challenges in the future direction, which is absolutely something to cherish upon.

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