Learning to Ask, Part II.

An interesting post up today, Dr. Isis relates some of her graduate school experiences, including the experience of her qualifying exam.  I have posted on my grad school experiences and attitudes before- which were largely dominated by the fear of not being smart enough for it- as you can read for yourself. Dr. Isis, on the other hand- describes have come to graduate school with supreme confidence in her own abilities, and seems to have had a totally different sort of adjustment.

I found it striking though, that although Dr. Isis and I came at the grad school experience from diametrically opposed directions… we seem to have ended up with the same conclusion…. roughly summarized as…you don’t know everything, and that’s fine-  asking can take you a long, long way!

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10 thoughts on “Learning to Ask, Part II.

  1. The key is to always be confident that your lack of knowledge in a particular area–and in particular you awareness of the exact nature and scope of that lack of knowledge–are no impediment at all to your ability to function in that area.

  2. Chemical bilology (the field) is all about being a fish out of water. I’ve always been totally comfortable not knowing WTF is going on, but having no shame about asking. It’s one of the things I love about it. Of course, eventually having WTF is going on dawn on me is the best part. NO FEAR! I can now talk to almost any scientist and remain mildly amusing and not completely irritatingly moronic to them!

  3. Dr. J- Thanks for letting me know, stupid of me not to check it but I’m fried (literally) from being in proposal purgatory…

    Arlenna- It took me quite some time to realize that not knowing wasn’t a bad thing- it’s only a bad thing if you never bother to find out! Or- alternatively- if you don’t realize your limitations… if you don’t realize your limitations you can not fix them. I’ve joined the ranks of the fearless-

    As for talking to other scientists- well, just being naturally extroverted helps tremendously.

    C PP- I think you are saying realize your limitations and then don’t let them stop you from going forward…

  4. It’s more than just that. It’s also presenting yourself to others in a way that makes it clear that you are confident in your own ability to operate effectively in the context of your own relative ignorance.

  5. It’s also presenting yourself to others in a way that makes it clear that you are confident in your own ability to operate effectively in the context of your own relative ignorance.

    honestly, you make it too easy sometimes CPP….

  6. It’s not a fucking joke. Do not underestimate the extent to which *how* one presents oneself influences the effect that one has on others. People have confidence in others who project confidence, and lose confidence in others who project uncertainty. The point is to acknowledge one’s ignorance, but continue to project confidence in the ability to move forward despite that ignorance.

    Sure, someone will chime in with how pernicious and destructive this is, and how science is supposed to be above all this, and only about the *scientific content* and blah, blah, blah. Well, you know what? If you want to have a satisfying enjoyable career in science, you ignore this shit at your peril.

  7. C PP-

    I think it is possible to be confident and know your limitations- without being arrogant. If a person has this ability- it is obvious. It’s not something you can try to put on, or ‘try’ to project, advertise, or fake, in my opinion. (Right now I’m sure you are saying I’m too fucking earnest for this job, no doubt).

  8. It’s not something you can try to put on, or ‘try’ to project, advertise, or fake, in my opinion.

    Of course it is! You never heard of “acting”, like in movies, theater, and teevee? Practice makes perfect.

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