We Are Human Scientists!

Many scientists have the ‘brain’ to conduct scientific research, the natural intelligence and ability. However, I would like to see more ‘heart’ in scientific research. The overwhelming desire and need to help others and further scientific knowledge.

Here are five ways that embracing our emotions can benefit us and our research.

  1. Motivation Is Key

As scientists we recognise that research has its peaks and troughs (maybe more troughs than peaks if we are completely honest). During those times motivation is key to maintain perseverance and resilience. For that reason, emotion is essential. Although we are intellectually capable of conducting scientific research and interested in our field of work, without the motivation and determination to succeed our research would be hindered. For me motivation comes from the underlying need for my research. The clinical need behind my research is the reason I care so deeply about my work and why I remain motivated. Last year I had the pleasure of attending a conference where I got to meet many patients who shared their past experiences and thoughts on my research. This was invaluable. Being emotionally connected to my work and wanting to better the lives of others is why I chose to become a scientist. Without embracing that emotion, I would not be the researcher I am today.  Think about the reason you became a scientist and what emotions this provokes for you, both the good and the bad. Embrace them.

  1. Human Versus Scientific Answers

An insecurity of mine is Imposter Syndrome, one that many scientists share. There have been many times that I have attended a conference, a seminar, a meeting where despite my existing scientific knowledge, I feel completely lost on the subject matter. This is perfectly fine as we continue to learn and expand our knowledge over time. However, as scientists we can become fixated on terminology and this can be detrimental to the widespread sharing of our work. When asked about my research I feel I often give more ‘human’ answers compared to other scientific researchers. Initially, this was an insecurity for me as I didn’t feel as intelligent as my peers. However, it was brought to my attention that this is an advantage I have to embrace. Providing basic, simplified answers on complicated subject matter can result in increased understanding among researchers as well wider audiences which promotes public engagement. Referring back to my previous point, not all answers require in depth, highly detailed scientific terminology or ‘robot’ language as I like to call it. When presenting your work, answer honestly and refer back to the reason you decided to be a scientist. You care. That is more than enough.

  1. Understanding Your Colleagues

Embracing your emotions in the workplace can benefit you but also your colleagues. Furthering your understanding of your colleagues can lead to a more efficient working environment and reinforce interpersonal relationships. We all have differing levels of emotional intelligence and that should be respected. The common expectation to leave our emotions at the door has always confused me. I am human. I have emotions. If we normalised and utilised our emotional capacity this would provide a more supportive work force and promote passionate research.

  1. Supervisor-Student Relationship

I have been extremely lucky to have such understanding, supportive and passionate supervisors throughout my studies and road to research. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone. I believe this can be attributed again to the lack of emotion within our working environment.  Checking in with your student on a ‘human’ level can make a world of difference to their research. Although work is important, if a person isn’t feeling their best, their work will not be their best. Therefore, it makes sense to allow them to be honest about their feelings. My supervisor and I often split our meetings to address both work and personal topics. I often joke that the first half of our meetings are a therapy session and the other half about work. For me it is important to have a supervisor who I feel comfortable and able to share with or my work would suffer as a result. Also, asking your supervisor how they are and checking in with them can make a difference. Maintaining a brave face at work isn’t always possible.  We are human.

  1. Aspire To Inspire

A common question: how do we get more people interested in STEM? EMOTION. Teach children and adults about how exciting STEM is. Show them how STEM can upset you when you see others suffering due to a lack of research. Express your frustration when your grant is rejected. Portray how happy you are when your methodology produces the results you want. Exude pride when your research has an impact. If we want others to become involved in STEM, we have to inspire them. I firmly believe that if I can become a scientist that anyone can. If you have the ‘heart’, your ‘brain’ will follow.