A few eons ago or so, the renowned Ichthyologist Dr. Milton Love wrote a piece entitled “So You Want to Be a Marine Biologist?” in which he imparted some damn good advice to those looking to follow in his slighty fish encrusted footsteps. In honor of another Dr. M, I have compiled what I would put forth is Some REALLY Damn Good Advice, from the mouth of the squid master himself. These tidbits, imparted over years of blogging and general science-ing, are pulled from some of my favorite Dr. M pieces.
Dr. M’s Really Damn Good Advice #1: “Be passionate. Others will tell you that science should be an emotionless endeavor. Well good luck with that. If you don’t get super excited about what ever you are studying then you are probably not going to make it.”
You guys. This is EVERYTHING. PASSION IS EVERYTHING. I tell all the kids I teach science stuff to or mentor about science stuff, that this is the #1 thing you need to be a good scientist. Hell, this is just good overall life advice. If you aren’t passionate about what you are doing…. then why are you doing it?
Dr. M’s Really Damn Good Advice #2: “Embrace the World Around You.”
You like Beyoncé? Well, I freaking lover her. Can I tell you 3 ways that Beyoncé and the Rocky Intertidal are related. You damn well bet I can. Will you always remember those three things every time you hear a Beyoncé song? Chances are good. Relevance is Power. Embrace the World Around You.
Dr. M’s Really Damn Good Advice #3: “Don’t forget why you wanted to do this. When you get those rejections and your scientific career is generally weighing you down, remember why you do this… It is because sorting little snails and worms out of decaying stinking wood is the best thing that has ever happened to you.”
I wouldn’t be the first to say it, nor will I be the last. While this is REALLY damn good advice, this is also REALLY damn hard advice. There will be times that you will most definitely forget why you are here (But then you will come back to this post and remember your brilliance!). Ocean science is full of awesome, squishy, crazy things! Ocean science is also full of crap. Sometimes, you will need to be able to wade through both. Also remember that while worms and snails make Dr. M happy….he is a nerd. Other things like seaweeds, and jellyfish, and genomes, and waves, and rum might make you happy….but you are probably a nerd too. So carry on.
Dr. M’s Really Damn Good Advice #4: “Say Things Others Do Not”
This one might be slightly cheating cause it was a DSN groupthink that included Dr. M that created this line, but this is my post so I get to do what I want. One of my most favorite DSN core values challenges the status quo of science. To say what needs to be said rather than what the PR department at your university said you could say.
Dr. M’s Really Damn Good Advice #5: “I believe that effective science communication, from the scientists themselves, must be based on a model with better integration between research and outreach. And importantly, we must teach these models to our students.”
Some advice I wish all scientists could take to heart. Not only is science communication an actual thing, but you can do it too! So many scientists I have come across, just don’t see the world this way. And the most unfortunate part is that students suffer because tools needed to do this well aren’t being presented in the classroom. It’s a spiral of doom!
Dr. M’s Really Damn Good Advice #6: “10 Reasons Why Dolphins Are A$$holes”
Need I explain further….
Dr. M’s Really Damn Good Advice #7: “Own it. Love it. Define yourself. For all my struggles, I have won. And so will you.”
Excuse me guys, I have something in my eye.
Real Talk: The first time I read this, I was sitting in my lab and it had been one of those real awful days. I had just started grad school and I was having an “Oh shit what did I sign up for” moment. You may be familiar. Nothing was working, classes were overwhelming, I had no secured funding, struggles were indeed real. Reading that last line from Dr. M’s “I Am Science and a Nerd” post got me through it. I felt a little less alone in a pretty dark place in my life. If this crazy bald man who studied something as weird as the Deep Sea could do it…I could do it. Thank-you Dr. M for all you have contributed to our field and for truly paving the way for the crazy kids like me to continue your legacy of work. I’ve been owning it, loving it, and defining myself ever since. And everyone else should too.