• Question: In your work, do you find it hard when you're working on something new, that you can't ask someone else for help because you're the only one who knows what you're doing?

    Asked by bolzanoweierstrass to Martin, Rob, Suzanne on 21 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Robert Thompson

      Robert Thompson answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Yes it gets difficult when your work becomes more and more specialist and there are fewer and fewer people to ask about it. I don’t think you will ever get in the situation where there is no one to ask though. Scientific work is all about looking at how things work, what rules apply and why this happens. So often what you look at is similar to something else, or follows a rule similar to another system, and you can often have discussions with other people to see what they think even if they don’t fully understand…… It’s this side of science that really really excites me. The really cutting edge stuff that gives you goose bumps when you think about it.

    • Photo: Suzanne McEndoo

      Suzanne McEndoo answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Yeah, that happens a lot. Particularly towards the end of your PhD (the degree that makes you a Dr), you tend to know more about what’s happening with your project than your supervisor does. This is usually a good thing because it shows that you’ve grown as a scientist, but if you’re completely stuck it can be unhelpful.

      Luckily, there’s usually someone around to talk to, either in person or online. Sometimes just telling someone what is going wrong means you come up with the solution yourself.

      On the up side, if you do figure it out, you know you, and you alone, have figured out something that nobody else ever has. 🙂

    • Photo: Martin Zaltz Austwick

      Martin Zaltz Austwick answered on 22 Mar 2012:

      What I tend to find is that as you get further through research, although people don’t have better answers they get better at asking the right questions. That’s quite important and saves a lot of time going down blind alleys. That’s really the talent of a good researcher, I think.