24 February 2009

Intellectual styles

I'm fascinated by how scientists have different intellectual styles. Some are methodical, others disorganized; some are great in the lab, others excel at interpreting data.

This post at The Quantum Pontiff reminded me of this question, presenting an idiosyncratic listing of different types of intellectual styles.

I became aware of different intellectual styles when one of my professors told a story about how several grad students were sitting around a table, chit chatting. One said he loved coming up with the questions to ask. Another said she loved the actual experiment, when the possibilities seemed infinitely variable. A third said, “No, it’s the numbers,” and enjoyed the process of running through the data, looking for the patterns. And the last enjoyed the writing, the pulling all the threads together into a final form.

Then they looked at each other and agreed that they should all write a paper together.

Another neurobiologist I met said the thing that he loved the most was listening to action potentials on an speaker. “I never get tired of that.”

The thing that keeps me going are the beginning and ends of the process: I love the ideas, and I love communicating them. The actual gathering of data, I have to admit, I sometimes find a bit of a grind. I particularly get frustrated running replicates. I know they're important, and I know I have to do them, but typically, when I running a replicate experiment, I usually have a very good idea of what the answer's going to be.

For my fellow scientists: What’s your favourite part of the research process?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ah... excellent topic. I was thinking about that just this week. Hmmm. What's my favorite part of the scientific process? I enjoy running the actual experiment and sharing my findings with others. I guess that's because I enjoy lab work and I definitely love to talk! The data and numbers themselves I don't care a whole lot for.