Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So, You're a Scientist?

People ask me about what it is I really do.  I don't think it's an insult as much as it is a misunderstanding of exactly how scientists work and what getting a Ph.D. is really all about.  It can be quite a challenge to explain, especially to grandma at Christmas.  To that end, I'd like to present some resources to hopefully help you in your quest for simple explanations.

1. The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. by Matt Might
(reproduced here under Creative Commons License)

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:
By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:
By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:
With a bachelor's degree, you gain a specialty:
A master's degree deepens that specialty:
Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:
Once you're at the boundary, you focus:
You push at the boundary for a few years:
Until one day, the boundary gives way:
And, that dent you've made is called a Ph.D.:
Of course, the world looks different to you now:
So, don't forget the bigger picture:

Keep pushing.

2. What you know vs. How much you know about it
Created by Jorge Cham of "Piled Higher and Deeper" Ph.D. Comics

3. Scientists drink a lot of coffee!!

But that's ok! There are lots of papers (102 at time of publication) listing the benefits of drinking coffee.

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