Neuroscientist Eve Marder’s advice to aspiring scientists

Eve Marder '69

Since 2012, Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience Eve Marder ’69 has been writing a series of articles for the online journal eLife in which she reflects on her professional life and offers some words of wisdom to today’s young researchers.

The insights from one of the country’s preeminent biologists offer a unique perspective on the pros and cons of working in academic research

Below are highlights from Marder’s essays with links to the originals for further reading.

Spend time abroad.

Getting on a plane in one country and getting off in a place where the sounds and sights are different, and the education system is different, brings perspectives that cannot be replaced by Skype. ... I urge every beginning scientist to get on an airplane to somewhere, to live and do experiments in a different country, even if only for a short visit. Scientists are supposed to be explorers! Go somewhere. Especially somewhere unexpected.

Source: "Living Science: Crossing oceans" eLife 2013;2:e00477

Don’t underestimate the power of luck.

It is important to recognize that some of the most important events in our lives, as scientists and people, depend on luck or chance. We accept that the randomness of the world plays an important role in finding a spouse, significant other and friends. I met my husband on a hot August day when we were both outside the student center at Brandeis University. My newspaper blew away and he rescued it. Perhaps had that not been a windy day, or perhaps if he had been there 10 minutes later, we might never have talked. Calling this luck does not devalue its importance, or the significance he has in my life.

Source: "Living Science: Luck, jobs and learning" eLife 2013;2:e00676 

Don’t overhype your research.

The most common complaint from [eLife] reviewers is that authors are overselling their work. We understand that competition for funding and pages in prestige journals has taught authors to frame their work in the most globally ambitious terms. However, there is a fine line between trying to express in a crisp and compelling manner a manuscript’s contribution, and making claims that are beyond what the manuscript does or could do.

Source: "Peer Review: The pleasure of publishing" with Vivek MalhotraeLife 2015;4:e05770

Read more of Professor Marder's advice.

Categories: Faculty
Date: September 25, 2017