What Does it Mean to Be a Scientist?

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Scientists are highly educated individuals involved in a wide variety of research. Most scientific research serves to forward our understanding of all sorts of phenomena. Scientists discover new technologies, methods and ways of knowing, all in the hopes of contributing to the betterment and advancement of humanity. Becoming a scientist is a long journey of gaining valuable education and skills and cultivating an innate sense of curiosity, inquisitiveness and lifelong learning.

Secondary Education

  • Throughout a potential scientist's secondary education experience, she typically does well on assignments related to science and mathematics. In high school, a potential scientist will cultivate skills in various science and mathematics courses. An interest in a particular area of science usually develops at this time, such as biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, geology, geography, social science or astronomy, among others. In the junior and senior year, potential scientists will begin taking standardized tests, seeking information about prospective colleges and universities and begin applying to those institutions of higher learning.

College and University Education

  • Once in college or university, the potential scientist will declare his scientific-related major or field of study. General education courses that supplement a science major include mathematics and statistics courses. During the university experience, it is beneficial for potential scientists to develop a good working relationship and mentorship with science professors. During the junior and senior years at college, potential scientists should begin taking standardized tests for graduate school and begin seeking out opportunities to further their education by attending graduate school. This process involves finding a scientist/professor at a university who is willing to work with the student as her mentor during graduate study.

Graduate Education and Terminal Degree

  • An important and essential part of becoming a scientist and what it means to become a scientist is gaining a graduate education and the terminal degree in the chosen area of science. For example, if a person wishes to become a chemist, then a PhD doctoral degree in chemistry is essential. A vital part of graduate education is the professional relationship that develops between a graduate student and his adviser and other professors. These individuals will offer sound guidance, mentorship and collaborative experiences for the budding scientist during his formative years. Also during graduate school, it is essential to participate in active research projects to hone research skills, attend and present research at professional and academic conferences and publish research findings in scholarly, peer-reviewed academic and scientific journals. Also of utmost importance is the topic and work performed toward producing a dissertation as a part of the requirements for earning a doctoral degree.

A Scientific Career

  • Upon earning a doctoral degree in a particular field of study, a scientist can begin pursuing career aspirations. Careers for scientists are wide-ranging, with opportunities available in many different organizations and workplace settings such as universities and other higher education facilities, research institutions, think tanks, government organizations, corporations and laboratories, among others. Many scientists, in addition to research, must disseminate research results through conference presentations and scholarly publications. It is also important for scientists to communicate their findings to the broader public in an interesting and understandable manner.

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