Did you know that Jackson Pollock’s works, including the famous Blue Poles, contain fractals and the fractal nature of the work is what is so appealing about it? This week’s curator, Associate Professor Adam Micolich, helped physicist Richard Taylor investigate Pollock’s work, to determine whether this was true. Like art, science is a creative endeavour. Unlike some art, though, science is largely a collaborative endeavour: collaborative, discursive, requiring discipline and hard work: topics that Adam elaborated on this week, as well as the ups and downs of a research career. He highlighted the changing nature of the scientific career and the enormous requirements made of students and researchers alike and how to deal with those challenges: basically, a behind-the-scenes look at academia.
This is our chaotic pendulum for studying chaos. Compared to a normal pendulum it does some weird things. pic.twitter.com/U637pyotth
— realscientists (@realscientists) July 3, 2014
Being a scientist isn’t easy. If you manage to stay in the game for long enough, you end up with some great skills and some idea of how to manage the system and Adam was adept at letting us in on some of these secrets. Young scientists particularly can feel pressure to work all hours to produce results, at risk of burning out. Work-life balance is a huge issue for many scientists, and a recurring theme at Real Scientists. It was great to hear Adam’s perspectives and tips for handling this so it doesn’t take over your life. During the week, Adam talked about how, increasingly, it’s becoming harder and harder for scientists to maintain this work-life balance, have a successful career and work the system to ensure you survive and can continue to gain funding: for your work, your postdocs and students. You want your staff to succeed, but without burning out, it’s all a team effort:
It’s really hard to do really adventurous science alone. But to be part of a truly effective team, you have to be able to put in selflessly. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 4, 2014
We really need to find a way to reward people for being a good part of a strong scientific team than for what they can get for themselves. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 4, 2014
Never ask people to do something you are unwilling to do yourself. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 5, 2014
Apart from Adam’s Salade Niçoise recipe, this is Adam’s Time Management Guide, aka How Not to Lose Your Mind as a Scientist:
1. I never work between midnight and 6am. I don’t answer emails either. Minimum 6 hours sleep a night, no less than 8 on a weekend. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 5, 2014
2. No more skipping meals for work, or ‘swapping’ them for take-out. It’s not about weight, its a eat good food, feel good, work well thing. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 5, 2014
3. I get some exercise every day, there is 1 hr that’s sacrosanct in my calendar for me. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 5, 2014
4. There’s one day a week my employer (the science monster) can’t have without very special circumstances, and that’s Saturday… — realscientists (@realscientists) July 5, 2014
5. Life can sometimes call the shots. If a special event comes up, you can meld work around it. I have no problems going out on a weeknight. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 5, 2014
We also got to see some of Adam’s group’s awesome work in nanoelectronics using “salty polymers” and some of the awesome old equipment lying around.
You met my Ph.D. student, Damon Carrad, earlier. He’s been working on using salty jelly as a material for making gates for nanowires. — realscientists (@realscientists) July 4, 2014
The device looks like this. You can see the nanowire, with an insulator and a metal gate 'wrapped' around it. pic.twitter.com/nl6Uhi6MJ7
— realscientists (@realscientists) July 4, 2014
There was also a lot of robust discussion around issues in science, perceptions of scientists and dealing with modern academic life which Adam covered with verve and great openness. You can catchup on the week’s tweets from Adam here.
We always appreciate the discussions that come up with the Real Scientists account and we hope to continue providing a safe, constructive space for this kind of profitable and ultimately, enlightening discourse. Both the curators, who give up their whole week for free to engage, and the audience, are critical to this engagement and we hope the community will continue to be supportive and constructive.
So, thank you Adam for your week at Real Scientists and introducing us to the world of nanoelectronics and the perils and pleasures of academia. Please be sure to follow Adam on his adventures at his regular account, @ad_mico.