Thursday, 20 June 2013

Scientific Nomenclature: Advice for Early Career Scientists

This post is inspired by my good friend and fellow scientist Graeme T. Lloyd. In a conversation today he brought up a great idea for all academia: the idea that a researcher could choose a unique name when they began publishing, much like an actor chooses a stage name. As I considered the idea I began to imagine that the thoughts and feelings of an aspiring academic as they moved through career stages. In particular, from the perspective of someone seeking a new moniker on their way to achieving their mad scientist goals.

Stage 1: Undergraduate / Masters
You are compelled to choose something unique and memorable so people will recognize your great potential.

Stage 2: Doctorate
Having developed a dark sense of humor after several years of grad school, you decide to choose a truely mad scientist name.
SPECIAL NOTE: As this is the career point in which most scientists start publishing, this usually becomes a scientist's permanent Stage Name

Stage 3: Post Doctorate
You wish you had named yourself after someone famous to reflect your great ambition. Then maybe you would have a job.

Stage 4: Tenure Track
Woohoo, you are on track! If only you had picked a more average name to ensure you blend in and continue on the track.

Stage 5: Tenure
Your feelings about your name are influenced by the success of your career. If I your h-index exceeds your IQ you are prolifically published, well respected, and you are proud of your name choice. If however, you are confined to the basement of the Ivory Tower, your self pitying ego convinces you that your poor name choice early in career is the reason you toil in obscurity. It is the also the reason for your colleague's hidden smirks, post-doc whisperings and undergraduate giggles at the the conferences you attend.

Don't stay up all night trying to decide on your scientific name, tune in next time to learn about the method to the madness!

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