Early bird wins the race
The best way for students to flourish in science is perhaps by participating in activities beyond the classroom, such as becoming involved in research projects, reading scientific journals and competing in science communication events. At the beginning of undergraduate program, choose the field of science that you find interesting. Besides studying academic books and attending lectures, scientific conferences, read scientific blogs and research articles from websites such as Small Things Considered, Quanta magazine, Nature, Microbiology Society, American Society for Microbiology (ASM), Science, Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS), and many more.
Writing about any scientific topic is very challenging; like any other skill this does not develop overnight. You need to build a constant habit of reading research articles. If you want to master scientific writing skills, write blogs for the website of your department, participate in various scientific writing competitions like Nature’s essay competition, Sanger prize competition, Asian Scientist Writing Prize, etc. During COVID-19 pandemic, many prestigious organizations like ASM are organizing online conferences. You can become a member of organizations like ASM, FEMS, and Microbiology Society, to get updates of their upcoming events. There are tremendous benefits of attending conferences whether they be online conferences or in-person conferences. Scientists from all around the world assemble in a single platform to present their research. Students can learn from their presentation, get ideas of what’s new in the field of life science and develop their own research question to explore in the future. Network with different groups of researchers and share research ideas, which creates good ambience for collaboration. Researchers can also acquire practical skills from various workshops conducted by professionals.
Coursera, Futurelearn, Edx, and many more websites are offering free courses during this pandemic to learn and develop your skills from anywhere in the world. Another great way to explore your scientific interest would be to participate in science communication competitions like Famelab. It gives a platform to explain complicated scientific topics into a simpler form in front of non-scientific community. It’s a great opportunity to develop your presentation skills, boost up confidence, learn and network with fellow science enthusiasts.
Follow your passion no matter how hard it can be
Before you dive into research find a research question. It’s very important to explore a research idea of your interest, no matter what others say. Read recently published research papers to get hints of what other researchers have already discovered across the world and reconstruct your research question to make it unique to the respective field. Make sure your question is precise and you have a roadmap of the path you will follow to answer that question in order to convince your prospective supervisor and the funding committee. Design your research, select a sample, take ethical approval before involving animals and humans in the process. Make a list of all the experiments you need to conduct to get desirable outcome. If your research requires both wet lab skills and bioinformatics skills, acquire those skills before you start your research. From time to time, it’s very common for a beginner to feel stuck, frustrated because nothing is working out. It feels like a dead-end and you are back to square one. Remember, there are no shortcuts or easy ways to get a desirable outcome. It’s a trial and error method. At this point you can discuss with your supervisor and colleague, ask for expert’s opinion in this field. Scientists who have been working for years in this field have overcome these challenges to meet remarkable outcomes and now they know how to get out of this pitfall, so do not hesitate to ask for help. While you perform any experiment keep a record of all the methods and results, and prepare your thesis to be included in your research paper.
Writing your research paper
Writing a research paper is much different than writing a scientific blog or essay. There are numerous rules to write a good paper and get it published in high impact journals. Make a list of contents of the paper: abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, conclusions and references. At first start with the introduction, where you elucidate the background and how it’s related to your study. If you have referred to other published papers, you must cite them using an appropriate citation style. After that smoothly transit from the background to the motive of your study. Briefly mention your thesis at the end of the paragraph. Include your methodologies and findings in the Method, Results and Discussion sections. If you have used any method that has been implemented in previous studies, or if you have used bioinformatics tools, cite them properly. For any tables and figures use a decimal numbering system and mention figure legend at the bottom of every figure for the readers to understand them clearly. Include all the data obtained in your experiments for reproducibility of the study. Mention all limitations of your study. In the conclusion section, wrap up your study by stating the significance of work you have done and how your work can be an asset to the scientific community and future perspective of your paper. The reference section must clearly elucidate all the bibliography in appropriate referencing style. Finally construct your abstract very carefully because the abstract is the first thing a reader comes across. If your abstract is not well written it doesn’t attract the reviewer and gives a negative impression of overall paper, eventually it might get reject by editors of any journals.
Improve and Improvise
After writing your first draft, polish it. Consider yourself a reader and constantly revise your writing- you will pick up many flaws. Small changes can make a significant difference and clarify your research. As you submit the manuscript to peer review journals make sure you follow their assigned rules to prepare your manuscript. The manuscript will go through many reviewing processes by experts in related fields. Your research will be evaluated into three main categories: Reliability: Measurements can be reproduced by other researchers; Replicability: Methodologies contain enough information for other researchers to repeat the same study to get same outcomes; Validity: Accuracy of measurements. They will also check whether it’s a well-written paper or not. If your manuscript does not meet the standard of the journals it might get rejected. If there are any flaws in the manuscript, the reviewers will provide valuable comments. You can improvise your manuscript accordingly and again submit it to any journals. Stay away from publishing in predatory journals, it will reduce credibility of your research.
If you want to be a good researcher, make sure you enjoy the journey rather than the outcome. Plan your study properly, select appropriate techniques and analyze your result to prepare a good report. Do not get demotivated if you are not getting desired outcomes, be patient and remember many great scientific discoveries have occurred by accident; for example, the recent discovery of CRISPR-Cas9, that revolutionized the field of Life Science. You will have to overcome a lot of challenges with courage, perseverance and strong determination to reach your goal.