• Question: How long have you been a scientist?

    Asked by anon-349085 on 8 Mar 2023. This question was also asked by anon-349098, anon-349110, anon-349355, anon-357550.
    • Photo: Sam Mugford

      Sam Mugford answered on 8 Mar 2023:

      I’ve had a job as a scientist for about 18 years, but before that I was a PhD student, and I was doing science for those 4 years, and for 2 years before that as a research technician, but also before that doing projects during my first degree. I don’t think you have to have to be a professional to be a scientist, I think if you are doing experiments to answer questions about the world then you are doing science, and if you’re doing science then you’re a scientist.

      When I was about 7 I took all the chemicals and cleaners out of the cupboard in the bathroom and mixed them up in a bucket to see what would happen* so I guess I’ve been a scientist since then.

      *by the way, definitely don’t do this. It turns out what happens is you make a very bad smell, and it’s actually quite dangerous, and you get in quite a lot of trouble. Also it was not a very well designed experiment, and “to see what would happen” is not a very well defined question. Overall I would give myself an F grade for that project.

    • Photo: Laura Vickers

      Laura Vickers answered on 9 Mar 2023: last edited 9 Mar 2023 7:57 am

      I’ve been a scientist since my first research project, which was when I was at university and designing a computer lab, and asking questions such as what would be the best software etc. Then I had my final year project. Went onto a three and a half year PhD which started in 2007. Since then I’ve been researching and teaching. Some years I do more research than other years.

      I would echo that you don’t need a PhD to research. You don’t need to even have gone to university. There are lots of scientists who do research. There is even citizen science which is things like the RSPB bird watch, where people observe and report what is in their garden. This is all still research. You can be a plant scientist by asking questions, designing an experiment and collecting information. What things like university do, is train you in how to do those things and how to communicate. I always say if you do some work, and find something out, you want to tell someone about it. So the “telling” somewhere becomes very important. Otherwise why research if no one ever knows you did it?

    • Photo: Liz Barron-Majerik

      Liz Barron-Majerik answered on 9 Mar 2023:

      I was going to say I went to University back in 1995, so since then, but really being a scientist is a way of thinking about the world, so it could have been even earlier than that.

    • Photo: Alison Tidy

      Alison Tidy answered on 9 Mar 2023:

      I have been a researcher for 12 years, and similar to others I did a PhD before that, as well as 3rd year and summer projects doing research during my university years. I would echo Laura/Sam that you can be a scientist without it being your job. I think being a scientist is how you look at the world and want to understand it, whether it is reading around the subject or going out and actually doing the experiments. If this is something that you are interested in I would recommend to see what citizen science projects are being done in your area, it is a great way to get involved and learn something new.

    • Photo: Andrew Wood

      Andrew Wood answered on 9 Mar 2023:

      I started doing research during my second year of my undergraduate degree, so now about 5 years!

    • Photo: Phil Howell

      Phil Howell answered on 10 Mar 2023:

      It depends on what you count as being a proper scientist. I think you can be a scientist when you’re still at school, because you’re doing science – asking questions, doing experiments and getting the answers to find out how the world works. I studied science at university and then got a science job when I left, over 30 years ago, and I’ve worked in science ever since

    • Photo: Ian Adams

      Ian Adams answered on 13 Mar 2023:

      Went to university in 1987 to do a degree in genetics and then a PhD in microbial genetics. Both at Sheffield with six months in Wagenningen in the Netherlands. Then 10 years doing microbial biotech and then medical research at Hull University, 4 years at York university developing plant products and finally 17 years at Fera working on plant diseases. One of the problems with Science careers is getting a permanent job and having to move around a lot to get one.

      simple answer 35 years

    • Photo: Nikolai Adamski

      Nikolai Adamski answered on 13 Mar 2023:

      I have been a scientist for 15 years. I feel like I ‘deserved’ to call myself a scientist while doing my undergraduate resaerch project. But actually, anyone can be a scientist. The formal training helps with creating good experiments and sound questions to ask (you should be able to test a question!), but you can figure most of these things out.
      There was an impressive article in the news not too long ago about an “amateur” scientist (I use quotation marks to show that they could be called simplay a scientist) who helped with an amazing discovery.