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Future scientists! My advice to you is...

Concise advice to junior scientists from established scientists

Inspired by the short and precise form of communication form of one-sentence book reviews, social media, tweets, blogs and text messages, senior scientists at the University of Copenhagen were asked to submit a single sentence response to one question:

”What advice would you give to a postdoc looking to make it in academia?”

Most of the responses were in English, some were in Danish. But we choose to publish the whole list. So this is how they responded:

1. ”Put yourself in environments where the leaders and the community get to know you personally. In general, people don’t distinguish between things they know and things they like.” – Charles Marcus
2. ”Most important advice! Seek to realize your dream project, but be aware you might need to take some detours along the way.” – Mikael Rask Madsen
3. ”Publish or perish.” – Jørgen Madsen
4. ”Network and go to a (preferably) foreign institution, but only where it makes sense for your studies, and it needs not be during your PhD.”
5. ”Go abroad, network, be curious – and always question prevailing wisdom.”
6. ”Follow curiosity and observe your surroundings.” – Christian Krarup
7. ”Kreativitet og mod.”
8. ”Remember that you need time to think!”
9. ”Husk at livet er en marathon og ikke en spurt – så hold fast i dine ideer og forfølg dem når du kan, så du sætter dit mærke og er tro mod dig selv.”
10. ”Concentrate on quality.”

Brains and stamina

11. ”Maintain your curiosity, enjoy your freedom, but be prepared to find your own money for research.”
12. ”Keep on exploring and you will reach the goal.” – Mette Hartlev
13. ”Trust your own ideas and let them develop.”
14. ”Make sure you focus your research on something you think is fun and interesting.” – Maja Horst
15. ”Write one good paper rather than 10 mediocre…” Brian Vinter
16. ”Believe in your ideas.” – Chris Knight
17. ”Look for the most recognized researchers in your area – approach them.”
18. ”Glæde ved det du laver og genuine interesse er afgørende.” – Jesper Hastrup Svendsen
19. ”What you need is: brains and stamina.”
20. ”Go international and get a sex change operation.”

Compare to the best

21. ”Passion som drivkraft ved valg af felt.”
22. ”Pick a subject that has your deep interest.”
23. ”Just stay motivated and dedicated.” – John Rand
24. Follow your own ideas and stick with them if you believe in them.”
25. You should be better than the best to get in the door and then those inside will slam it in your face. Academia is producing PhDs like never before. There are too few positions. Be prepared to work 60 hours a week. There are exciting possibilities in industry. Pay is better, jobs more secure and no proposals to write. My advice? Consider industry.” – Susan Stipp
26. ”State your hypothesis in detail, test it, and put your results in perspective.” – Per Gundersen
27. ”Vær videbegærlig!”
28. ”Learn to prioritize.”
29. ”Compare to the best.”
30. ”Husk at videnskab er lidenskab, og ikke bare et håndværk.”

Follow your own curiosity

31. ”Husk at undre dig!”
32. ”Husk at skifte sted!”
33. ”Do interesting research and work hard.”
34. ”Believe in your ideas, pursue your ideas, stay focused.”
35. ”Follow your heart. Follow your intuition. Be persistent. Be enthusiastic.” – Søren Møller
36. ”Go abroad for research ASAP.”
37. ”Follow you own curiosity.” – Thomas Heimburg
38. ”Combine true curiosity with hard work and engagement. Good luck!”
39. ”Be happy!”
40. ”Find out what is required , plan your path to acquire the requirements – and do it.”

Do risky studies

41. ”Lie, steal and cheat.”
42. ”Follow your interests.”
43. ”Be aware that permanent positions are hard to get.”
44. ”Bevar din nysgerrighed og sunde fornuft.” – Pia Borlund
45. ”Be open-minded.”
46. ”Opsøg de mest inspirerende forskere, og lav en plan for udvikling af forskning og undervisning.” – Jacob G. Nielsen
47. ”Bed din fagforening og dine politiske repræsentanter om at sikre stillinger til nye postdocs, og bed om at administrationen reduceres drastisk.”
48. ”Get strong contacts to strong departments at strong universities. Leave KU for long visits.” – Peder Andersen
49. ”Take the risk to make risky studies, despite short funding.”
50. ”Go abroad!”

Get a good mentor

51. ”Work hard and stay away from administration.”
52. ”Work with what you are interested in, and hope this will result in some money.” – Niels
53. ”Learn who are the best in your field, and master all aspects of their research.”
54. ”Spend at least 2 years abroad.”
55. ”Tro på dig selv og lyt til natures signaler; ellers hævner den sig før eller senere.”
56. ”Be a very good networker.” – K.T.
57. ”Enjoy what you are doing! Science is fun.”
58. ”Choose with your heart – pursue your dreams.”
59. ”Please do so good research.”
60. ”Get yourself a good mentor! And read as much as you can.” – Helle

Marry the right person

61. ”Keep going!”
62. ”Love your topic/subject/field – and network!” – Tine Damsholt
63. ”Skab rammer og skær det unødige væk.” – Jan Gorodkin
64. ”Work but do not forget to live.”
65. ”Rejs ud- også til Østen – det er de, væksten er og der du finder din næste kollega eller din konkurrent.” – John
66. ”Marry the right person!”
67. ”Make a difference in your group, with research, education and setting the bar and the spirit.”
68. ”Cultivate your international network.”
69. ”Choose the perfect mentor with whom you thrive and feel safe.”
70. ”Trust your desire and go for it!”

Exploit your talent

71. ”Try to dive into a specific topic of your study at an early stage – exploring the topic as a hobby makes you feel like a scientist at an early stage.” – Jan Sørensen
72. ”Use your position to find yourself – and use this finding in your position.” – Jens Dolin
73. ”To be true to your own personality.”
74. ”Sitzfleisch! Perseverance! You need to really burn for it and give up many other things.”
75. ”Studer det du brænder for, og find ud af hvordan det er generelt interessant i samtiden.”
76. ”Stick to themes that excite you.” – Finn Kensing
77. ”Be passionate and work hard!” Bente
78. ”Exploit your talent, work hard, protect your integrity and enjoy life.” – Martin Lauritzen
79. ”Enjoy the hard work!” – Morten Bjerrum
80. ”Work, work, work!”

Be confident

81. ”Hold fast på dine egne ideer.”
82. ”Find yourself an interesting topic and a super good supervisor!”
83. ”Be adventurous and work hard.” – Merete Fredholm
84. ”Work hard. Be confident.” – Kirsten Busch Nielsen
85. ”Tag ud i verden.” – Jesper Grodal
86. ”Work, work, work. Og tro på dig selv turde tænke ud af boksen.” – Christian
87. ”Don’t let them disturb you interests.”
88. ”Talent is important but hard work more important.”
89. ”Work hard. Follow your heart. Have fun.” – Thomas Bjørnholm
90. ”Be committed!”

Don’t follow leaders

91. ”Tænk grundigt over hvad du brænder for. Drop det seneste ‘hotte topic’.” – Christian A. Olsen
92. ”To keep the passion and the spirit!” – Lene Jespersen
93. ”Brænd for det. Passion, nysgerrighed og kreativitet. Og hårdt arbejde.”
94. ”Networking.”
95. ”Det er bedre at gøre noget – end intet. Tænk stort! Vær nysgerrig. Tænk selv – vejleder har ikke altid ret!”
96. ”Kære researcher. Det vigtigste er den helt hjemmelavede, uskolede, fnulrede, famlende, sitrende, fjumsede nysgerrighed.” Isak Winkel Holm
97. ”Du skal give dit bedste og så skal du være på det rette sted på det rette tidspunkt.”
98. ”In the beginning follow the trend of a super researcher – whatever it is – then do what you want or what you find interesting.”
99. ”Work hard. Question everything. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And have fun with your work.” – Irina Artemieva
100. ”Don’t follow leaders. Always have high moral standards. Don’t run for money. Make research for the people, not the money.”

Be patient

101. ”Dear young investigator, when you have to decide where to go with a new project in the future, or continue, follow your gut feeling and follow what you are most interested in.”
102. ”Husk at den akademiske praktiske og kritiske sans er guld.”
103. ”Vær nysgerrig, flittig og bliv ved.”
104. ”To dare is to do (audere est falere).”
105. ”Don’t try to game the system. Work on what interests you.”
106. ”Nysgerrighed – ønsket om at forstå (og måske) påvirke processer.”
107. ”Networking, hard work, but keep the balance, so it will continue to be inspiring and motivating.”
108. ”Be patient!”
109. ”Giv ikke op – dine drømme bliver opfyldt, hvis du arbejder flittigt og er social bevist.”
110. ”Follow what you are interested in, but be open-minded for others suggestions.”

Follow your heart

111. ”Take a rest from social media and join academia.”
112. ”Always ask yourself, is it the right thing to do.” – Diane Sonnenwald
113. ”Engagér dig både fagligt og socialt.”
114. ”Follow your heart!”
115. ”Be generous with co-authorship, it pays of later on. Change university after the Ph.D. and return only after minimum 3 years. Enjoy what you do.” – Anders
116. ”Don’t look so much to what others do – listen to your heart, guts, instincts and conscience and trust your decisions!” – J.P. Kutter
117. ”Følg dit hjerte og arbejd hårdt for det.”
118. ”Be mobile! Do what you love wherever you can.”
119. ”Work hard!”
120. ”All young scientists should spend 2 years abroad.”

Ask important questions

121. ”Work smart not hard!” – Jens Jørgen Gaardhøje
122. ”Passion.”
123. ”Don’t complain!”
124. ”Build up a network – internally at the department and externally with other colleagues.” – Lars K. Poulsen
125. ”You will need curiosity, tenacity and the ability to have fun in your work.”
126. ”Ask important questions!”
127. ”Strive to acquire insights… and once you have acquired them, remember to question and doubt them.” – Lars Hviid
128. ”Curiosity is the motivation but hard work is a necessity.”
129. ”Follow your own interests and be true to your values.” – Henrik Nielsen
130. ”Indse dine egne kvalifikationer og se chancer hvor de kan udnyttes.”

Dare to persist

131. ”Fokus. Fokus.”
132. ”Følg dine egne interesser!” – Marlene Ringgaard Lorensen
133. ”Don’t stop asking questions!” – J.P. Kutter
134. ”Be ambitious, find a supervisor working in a field that interests you and work hard.” – Claus Ekstrøm
135. ”Vær nysgerrig, vær dig selv, lad dig drive af interesse og bevar din integritet.” – Birgitte Vennervald
136. ”Stick to bright thinking added a bit of coherence.” – Niels Ole Finnemann
137. ”Follow your heart. Do what you think is fun – enjoy good science. Collaborate broadly. Think big.” – Thue W. Schwartz
138. ”Share your ideas and collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.” – Claus Felby
139. ”Dare to persist ideas that initially appear stupid to your peers.”
140. ”Go international early and make bonds with excellent scientists (and come back again).”

Start difficult, then easy

141. ”Start with the difficult stuff and then do the easy stuff – if it’s still relevant.”
142. ”Find an excellent mentor and prove to her or him that you are prepared to invest your life.” – P. Bytzer
143. ”Jeg ville gerne skrive ”engageret, entusiastisk, tålmodig, vedholdende”, men realiteten er nok snarere ”egoistisk, strategisk, politisk, fokuseret”.
144. ”Choose a topic and area you really are engaged in and work with the greatest discipline and commitment. Good luck!” – Reinhard Stelter
145. ”Just keep the spirit – and your deep interest in the field.”
146. ”Choose your supervisor according to his reputation.”
147. ”Be curious, doubt everything.” – Birgit Rasmussen Olsen
148. ”Study and work abroad!”
149. ”Følg din interesse og hold ud.”
150. ”Lær glæden ved hårdt arbejde!” – Noa

Write grants early

151. ”In order to succeed in academia you have to be: 1/3 entrepreneur, 1/3 artist and 1/3 bureaucrat! Otherwise; stick to your interest, and strive for excellence.”
152. ”Do what you think is interesting, not what seems fashionable.” – Matthias Christandl
153. ”The joy of science lays in the freedom of forming hypotheses and approving or disapproving them – not in being rich in money.”
154. ”Be extremely focused and dedicated; but keep humble – that allows for constructive academic and scientific interaction.” – Poul Hyttel
155. ”Be engaged and focused but remember to enjoy yourself.” – Stig
156. ”Select your mentor carefully.” – Stig E. Bojesen
157. ”Forskning er hårdt arbejde. Bid dig fast og mist ikke modet.”
158. ”Gøre sig uundværlig.”
159. ”Be honest, be focused – and keep your goal in sight.” – Mads Bryde Andersen
160. ”Write grants early.” – Søren Brunak

Go abroad, come back as the expert

161. ”Man skal gøre sig umage.”
162. ”Ask a question (or several questions) that can be answered.”
163. ”Prøv at gå til optimistisk, find en god mentor/forskergruppe og blive ved!”
164. ”Brug lang tid og stor kreativitet på at formulere de gode spørgsmål.” – Jørgen Kurtzhals
165. ”Go abroad – come back and establish yourself as a local expert.”
166. ”Do good science .”
167. ”Work hard !”
168. ”Dyrk noget, der har den brændende interesse!”
169. ”Find a problem that you think is really important to solve.”
170. ”Follow your interest and only take advice leading in that direction.”

Be critical

171. ”Sov længe.”
172. ”Travel and make friends.”
173. ”I would advise for creativity, honesty, collaboration, social skills.”
174. ”Invest yourself in research as if you are in love in it.” – Thorkild Ingvor Arrild Sørensen
175. ”Pick an exciting, unique research question.”
176. ”Read a lot, know your field and then work hard, be dedicated and ambitious.”
177. ”Follow your passion!”
178. ”Take close inspection of every opportunity.”
179. ”Grav dybt. Tag ikke et ja for et ja og et nej for et nej. Held og lykke.” – Henrik BW. Larsson
180. ”Lyt og vær kritisk.”

Work your ass off

181. ”Tænk ud af boksen.”
182. ”Bliv fagligt dygtig og think out of the box!!!”
183. ”Stay true to your basic commitment – but make sure you explore all possible networking options.” – Peter Harder
184. ”Følg din passion !”
185. ”Science – if you don’t love it, don’t do it!”
186. ”Follow your brain!”
187. ”Find det der virkelig interesserer dig og nogle andre som også interesserer sig for det, og hold fast I det og dem.” – Elisabeth Engberg-Pedersen
188. ”Love your subject, nurture talent and work your ass off!”
189. ”Fokus, fokus og fokus.”
190. ”Find a mentor who is competent in his/her field and who thinks more about your career advancement than his/her own.” – Hans Bräuner-Osborne

Stay creative

191. ”Skift miljø mellem PhD og post-doc – gerne udland. Overvej om post-doc overhovedet er dig.”
192. ”Work hard, harder than you think you could, start now. But do not compromise your kids.”
193. ”Focus on what interests you; don’t be opportunistic; seek truth and emancipation.”
194. ”Lad din lyst styre hvad du forsker i.”
195. ”Stay enthusiastic!”
196. ”Stay creative and critical and work hard and systematically.” – Anders Wivel
197. ”Være vedholdende.”
198. ”Be curious and never stop questioning conventional wisdom.”
199. ”Think with intuition. Analyze with rationality and work with passion.” – Lars
200. ”Brænd for det du gør og bevar fokus.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously

201. ”Identify the problem closest to your heart in the periphery of your field of expertise, formulate a proposal and go where the money is with a collaboration spirit.”
202. ”Do what you find most exciting and follow a coherent research program in time.” – Mogens Brøndsted
203. ”The day before my very first lecture my academic idol told me: ”If it’s not fun, don’t do it”. I swear by that.” – Nate Sanders
204. ”Søg noget du brænder for.”
205. ”Enjoy and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
206. ”Work on something you love, together with people you respect.” – Mette Asmild
207. ”Lad være med at tro at der er noget du ikke kan.” – Mogens Steffensen
208. ”The fastest road is not always the direct road.” – Lise Arleth
209. ”Apply for jobs outside the department you did your candidate or PhD.”

Are you an established scientist and have any pieces of further advice? Write in the comment field below!

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