I have been scientifically-minded since I was really young, which is why it felt very natural for me to do a science degree at university. I would say I have been a scientist since I did my industrial placement work experience, which was when I did my first proper research job. So that makes it 7 years! This work experience helped me to get a feel for what a job in science was like, because studying at school and university always felt quite ‘hands-off’ and theoretical. Only after doing some lab work did I feel confident enough to call myself a scientist.
Similarly to Luke I’d say I’ve been a scientist since my Industrial placement work experience, where I spent a year working as a research scientist in a pharmaceutical company as part of my degree. This was a great chance to get hands on with some real world science and is what gave me the confidence to apply for a PhD.That was now three years ago, although one of those years was spent as a late gap year!
As a first year PhD student I’d say I still feel halfway between “Student” and “Scientist” but then one of the best things about working in science is that you’re always learning new things to keep up with exciting developments!
I started doing some research projects as an undergraduate half way through medical school – around 10 years ago. This inspired me to take an extra year of study to focus on neuroscience in particular. I’ve been doing science since then. However, until recently my research science has always had to take second place to medicine and I probably wouldn’t have called myself a scientist. In 2014 I managed to get a job formally combining my medical and research work and so only then would I get the confidence to call myself a Scientist.
However, as Luke and Jonathan say, I think being a scientist is all in the mind. If you are asking questions of the world and trying to answer them using scientific approaches – including critically reading research papers and learning science in School or University – I think you are totally justified in calling yourself a Scientist.