• Question: Whats the hardest part of being a scientist?

    Asked by 442rutq36 on 8 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: Aileen Baird

      Aileen Baird answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      I think the hardest thing is scientific experiments and equipment can be very temperamental! Sometimes you can spend lots of time (hours/days/weeks!) setting up an experiment, and for an unknown reason it doesn’t work. There is lots of problem solving in science, which can be really fun, but it can also be really frustrating!

    • Photo: Natasha Myhill

      Natasha Myhill answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      The hardest part of being a scientist for me, is that experiments don’t always go the way you plan. This can often lead to interesting questions and new discoveries, but sometimes it’s just because you made an error, or the machine wasn’t working properly. But while this makes it difficult, it also means its really rewarding when something goes well!

    • Photo: Martin Coath

      Martin Coath answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      For a lot of people the hardest part is finding a ‘steady’ job. A lot of research work comes in the form of short contracts, so many scientists are looking for a new job every 2 or 3 years. A lot of young scientists find this very difficult.

    • Photo: Martin Coath

      Martin Coath answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      For a lot of people the hardest part of being a research scientist is finding a ‘steady’ job. A lot of research work comes in the form of short projects, so people are often looking for a new job every 2 or 3 years. A lot of young scientists find this very difficult.

    • Photo: Stéphane Berneau

      Stéphane Berneau answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      I would say that the hardest part is the time spent on an experiment compared to the results. Detecting proteins via the Western Blot techniques can take up to 3 days from the protein extraction to the final result.
      But we are scientists and once we get a nice positive result we forget everything bad that had happened and move on to the next piece of data to do.
      Always need to be positive 😉

    • Photo: Ciara O'Donovan

      Ciara O'Donovan answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      The hardest part for me is probably that often what you are doing is specific to your project and so if you reach problems you can very often be alone in this. I am lucky to have excellent supervisors and colleagues that are incredibly helpful and supportive but often if experiments or other aspects are going wrong it can feel a little like you are on your own.

    • Photo: Hayley Pincott

      Hayley Pincott answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      I work in a lab where we help to provide a diagnosis for a patient, and the diagnosis isn’t always good news. So for me it’s difficult when your best simply isn’t good enough, however what we can do is to provide information to the other healthcare professionals so they can help the patient manage their condition/illness.

    • Photo: Dmitry Dereshev

      Dmitry Dereshev answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      Early on, it was the amount of reading I had to do to get familiar with the subject – there is no set curriculum, and scientific work is very rarely written in a “novice-friendly” way.

      After that, it was more about how to conduct experiments – you have to be very precise in how you ask questions, and the extent of your answers. Something that may sound simple, like “why do some animals have two nostrils, and not one?” may require years of work to answer definitively.

      Finally, the writing up and publication of your experiments is a tough task in itself. Your work is “graded” by several experts in the field, whom you might not know and have never seen. Their judgement is often final, and that determines if your hard work will ever be seen as “scientific”.

    • Photo: Ry Cutter

      Ry Cutter answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      Hi 442rutq36,

      For me personally, it’s imposter syndrome. Being surrounded by smart and enthusiastic people can be quite daunting. Because of that, I sometimes feel I’m not good enough or intelligent enough to be where I’m at. I think it’s a common experience for a lot of scientists. It’s important to remember though, while you do need critical thinking skills, being smart, getting good grades, isn’t what makes a good scientist. Working hard, building a strong case for your research, and being a nice person has shown to make someone a good scientist. (At least that’s what I think :D! )

      Hope that answers your question,


    • Photo: Emma Crawford

      Emma Crawford answered on 8 Mar 2019:

      I think knowing that only 1 in 12 drugs tested in clinical trials are successfull is pretty hard – it means the odds are against us and more often than not despite all our hard work planning and running the clinical trials the drug may never make it to market.

    • Photo: James Sullivan

      James Sullivan answered on 11 Mar 2019:

      I think faulty equipment – especially when you might have an experiment which uses 5-6 pieces of equipment, if one breaks all the results you get are wrong.
      Getting a feel for when equipment is beginning to become faulty (and the outcomes of specific faults each bit might have) is a big part of our training.

    • Photo: Aoife Lucid

      Aoife Lucid answered on 11 Mar 2019:

      I think it varies from scientist to scientist but for me, the hardest part is writing up papers on my research (which is a big part of being a research scientist!) It ties into what Ryan said about imposter syndrome, sometimes it’s hard to get something down on paper when you don’t think what you are doing is good enough, but once I can force myself to get going I can get it done and realise that my work is worthwhile and contributing to knowledge in my field.

    • Photo: Sophie Louth

      Sophie Louth answered on 12 Mar 2019:

      I get frustrated when I have to go to pointless meetings that bosses want me to go to but I don’t have any reason to be there. The hardest part in some ways is when you have a hypothesis – an explanation – that makes sense in your mind but then the results don’t fit so you have to come up with a new hypothesis, it is also good because you are learning new things, but hard to come up with new explanations.

    • Photo: Renata Medeiros

      Renata Medeiros answered on 18 Mar 2019:

      These days science is mostly about self-promotion (making things for your career) and I find that very uninspiring.

    • Photo: Nikolai Adamski

      Nikolai Adamski answered on 26 Mar 2019:

      The hardest part of being a scientist for me is something called “work-life balance”.
      Contracts for young scientists are often very short (2-3 years), so in order to get another contract you need to have achieved somethign in your last one, for example publishing a research paper in a prestigious scientific journal. I really like being a scientist, so I don’t mind working a lot because I really want to find the answers to my questions. But I also have a family now (wife and kids) and I want to spend time with them too. But they also depend on me having a job, so I need to work…repeat the cycle.
      Finding the right balance here is difficult.

    • Photo: Jordan Moir

      Jordan Moir answered on 8 Apr 2019:

      I work in a lab where we process, test and dispatch blood products for blood transfusion use. We have have a large requirement by hospitals to provide blood products specific to patients needs however due to a large ethnical mix in the UK and only about 3% of the populatiom who can give blood donating it is sometimes hard to find a completely suitable blood match and alternatives have to be given which is discussed and decided by professionals who are working on the patients diagnosis and treatment. Time management and priotising is a large requirement of the job as you could be carrying out a task for one patient but a more serious issue occurs and emergency blood is required so this takes priority before completing the other product.