From the beginning of our careers, we receive pieces of advice: ‘follow your dreams’, ‘be curious’, ‘think outside the box’, ‘realize your ambitions’. During my first steps as a young neuroscientist, these resonated with me.
But the more I grew professionally, the more I disliked them. They seemed hackneyed and stereotyped when confronted with science: it’s not always a fairy tale underpinned by curiosity. Scientists deal more often with frustrations and challenges than with dreams and rewards.
When I found myself in a position to give advice to students after my PhD, I needed something more substantial. I was looking for inspiring stories and valuable advice that I could share to help them unleash their potential.
I turned my attention towards the scientists who have come closest to realizing their fairy tales by receiving the most coveted award they could hope for, a Nobel prize. I wanted to explore the other side of the medal: the laureates’ life stories; the things we didn’t know about them; the mistakes and frustrations they experienced.
As a PhD student in 2014, I was invited to attend the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, with 37 laureates and 600 fellow young scientists, in the German town of Lindau, on the shores of Lake Constance.
Some months later, I had the idea of writing a book featuring interviews with high-profile scientists. I contacted the meeting’s organizers and was given the chance to get in touch with 24 laureates. My book, entitled Nobel Life and published in June 2021, contains their life stories, their advice for future generations and their thoughts on what remains to be discovered. I also gleaned some career tips and advice from them, based on my interviews.
Read the full article on the Nature Careers Website: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02772-4
Spoiler alert…. the headlines are:
- Marks are not destiny
- Seize every learning opportunity
- Have a plan B (and a plan C)
- Serendipity matters
- Even the best ideas can be rejected
- Teamwork with students is essential — as is patience
- Tailor covering letters