Reblog: Success in academia involves a lot of failure

Eric Weiskott, an Associate Professor of English at Boston College, has written a CV of his failures here. Whilst it is not often published, I don’t know a single academic or researcher who doesn’t have a similar list. I certainly do. There are rejected applications, failed experiments, unpublished papers and unfunded grants. The list is long. Incidentally, most researchers I’ve met have all echoed the same sentiment: the key to success is try and try again. The best researchers also add that it’s important to not let rejection bog you down. A few years ago, I attended an early career talk by Russell Foster, a neuroscientist who discovered photosensitive ganglion cells in the retina and by most measures a successful scientist. Based on his own experience, he listed the approximate number of applications required to land funding. As a young researcher, it was a sobering talk. However, it was also oddly encouraging to be told that as long as you do good work, it’s probably only a numbers game.

Prof Weiskott’s post is reblogged below, and it is definitely worth a read:

Eric Weiskott

When I think about my career so far, I’m humbled by the generosity of friends and colleagues. I’m also acutely aware of the odds stacked against anyone who tries to enter this profession. My own success, such as it is, was the direct result of a lot of failure. Maybe there is someone out there who succeeds in academia without failing. I am not that person. I want to talk about my experience in the hope that it smashes a few unhelpful myths about academia, publishing, and job-seeking. This is my version of a CV of failures.

Failing to get into grad school

As a senior in college, I applied to MPhil and PhD programs. Most of them rejected me. Programs that rejected me were Brown University, Harvard University, the Marshall Scholarship, Stanford University, University of Connecticut, University of Michigan, and University of Oxford. New York University and the University of Virginia waitlisted me. The University of Cambridge accepted me…

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