How to win a Nobel Prize. And how I am following the rules.

I started this blog with the aim to share my first steps in Science, and I have always mentioned that these pages are written by an early-stage, not-so-important, bioinformatics-hybrid PhD student. Thus, I have never claimed a particular expertise, or to be important enough to be an influencer in theoretical biology.

Of course, reading this post will take you to the conclusion that I have swelled quite hard, as I start to share suggestions on how to win a Nobel prize. Actually, I have no clue on how to increase your probabilities to win the most important academic prize, but someone at PLoS has some ideas to discuss on how to make your way to Stockholm.

Written by Richard J. Roberts New from England Biolabs, Ipswich, Massachusetts, this further “ten simple rules article” on PLoS Computational Biology is about how to grab the legendary golden medal of science. And as you can find the article here for a better insight, I will limit to analyse any rule by discussing it and reporting how I am attending them.

1. Never Start Your Career by Aiming for a Nobel Prize

Well, this is fairly easy. Having been raised with Roman Catholic education, I was taught to enjoy the simplicity of life, because the poor in spirit will reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Despite my current atheist belief, I am still very devoted to enjoy the simple things in life, and in Science. So, I don’t need to think to the final prize to enjoy the walk to win it, and as I appreciate the walk, the final destination is not that important.

2. Hope That Your Experiments Fail Occasionally

Whoha, this is way too easy. Beginners level. If my probabilities to get a Nobel prize are proportional to my capability to fuck my work up, I will most likely be awarded in a couple of years. More seriously, the author points out that a bad result could be more informative than a good one, because a bad result may be the way in which nature warns us that we need to change something in our experimental design. It’s all about being open-minded as you critically analyse your data, and to be up for radical changes in the way you approach your work.

3. Collaborate with Other Scientists, but Never with More Than Two Other People

As i proceed with my PhD experience, I understand that my natural misanthropy comes out really useful in many occasions. Many work productivity gurus make their best to stress out that communication and collaboration are essential to succeed in any work ambit. And they are very right, actually. Anyways, the openness in collaboration has to be balanced with some reasonability, in order to build fruitful and feasible collaborations. I will work on opening my “clam character”, but a bit of selection is not to disregard.

4. To Increase Your Odds of Winning, Be Sure to Pick Your Family Carefully

The level of insanity my private life is taking makes this the most difficult point to me. I am not really keen to bore the readers with personal details on this blog, but let’s say that I cannot really figure out who will be the person with which I will build a family. Nice point, anyways. A career in science is a life-long activity, and being surrounded by people supporting your interests is very important.

5. Work in the Laboratory of a Previous Nobel Prize Winner

Well, this turns out quite hard for me to do, and I don’t really agree with this point anyways. Of course, working in a high-level centre, along with genial people, will increase your probability to do good science. But the most important thing is to find a place where you can fruitfully produce results and get linked with your colleagues. Especially at a pre-doc level. I will eventually try to find some Nobel prize to work with in my post-doc, but I must confess that this is not really my point (as it is not my point to win a Nobel, actually).

6. Even Better Than Rule 5, Try to Work in the Laboratory of a Future Nobel Prize Winner

I have a lot of trust in Josep’s work actually, let’s wait and see :).

7. Always Design and Execute Your Best Experiments at a Time When Your Luck Is Running High

I dare to argue out that this is quite misleading. Of course, any discover of particular interest involves a lot of luck. But luck is not really the point. An analysis can take you to different conclusions, and the rest it’s all about your ability to get the most important ones and focus on them. In other words, luck is important, but you have to be able to see it and take advantage of it.

I believe that research activity depends on a good state of mind. As we are persons, all the sides of our life are interconnected, and a good balance will allow us to get better results even in research activity. This is the case in which “your luck is running high”, that basically means that you reached a life balance and a mood that increase your productivity.

8. Never Plan Your Life around Winning a Nobel Prize

The really surprising thing is that the author substantiate this point by mentioning a lot of examples of people who actually do such an insane thing.

9. Always Be Nice to Swedish Scientists

I lived for a couple of months in Finland and I have understood one thing about people coming from Scandinavia. Those populations have established in a very cold place, and built their communities fighting the worst environmental conditions. As environment is that harsh, you can just fight it with solidarity and collaboration between humans. Despite the place where they have born is dramatically cold, those guys up there are all but cold themselves. They are kind, welcoming and surprisingly warm. The author claims that they are good drinking mates. Well, more or less. They are great drinkers, and you have to be a good drinker too, or you will most likely end up on the ground in a state of unconsciousness.

10. Study Biology

We are gonna like this, isn’t it? There is no Nobel prize for Biology, but biologists are the ones that win the most of the prizes, as they can contribute to both Medicine and Chemistry. On my side, it seems that I did the right choice.

As usual, I have to mention that all my opinions reflect my poor experience in research, and I hope to discuss them with someone that is up to provide me useful criticism. Anyways, even if I am not really caring about my chances to take the jackpot, I think that many of these suggestions are useful to improve your science, and I really appreciated this reading.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s