• Question: What is the most challening thing you guys have had so far in your science career?

    Asked by charlottemorris to Tom, Sarah, Sami, Sam, Sabina, Rohan, Raquel, Priyanka, Pawan, Patrick, Ophélie, Nayeli, Mary-Kay, Martin, Mario, Kanta, Joel, Imogen, Gergely, Daniel, Arianna, Andreas on 21 Sep 2017.
    • Photo: Kanta Dihal

      Kanta Dihal answered on 21 Sep 2017:


      The most challenging thing for me actually had to do with the fact that I’m not a scientist, but a researcher! I work at the English Faculty. But because I study literature and science, it was hard to figure out who was going to pay me to do my research. The humanities people thought that the sciences should pay me, and the science people wouldn’t pay me because I’m in a humanities faculty.

    • Photo: Imogen Goold

      Imogen Goold answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      Finishing my book about owning body parts… because I still haven’t finished! I keep thinking of more things I want to read and think about, and more arguments against my position and find it really challenging to say “right, that’s it, that’s what I think, I’m sure this is right” because I’m always questioning my conclusions.

    • Photo: Sam Parsons

      Sam Parsons answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      I think that I am in the most challenging stage right now! I’m mid-thesis write-up, and am searching for postdoctoral positions and balancing that with submitting papers. Lots of related but different things that need to get done at the same time. The academic job market can be quite competitive. Like Kanta puts it – you need to find someone that’s willing to pay you to do research.

    • Photo: Rohan Kapitany

      Rohan Kapitany answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      Finding both the time and the money to do everything I want to do. But because I try to do so much, I find that after a little while I have made too much work for myself and I have to spend a long time dealing with it all. I’m still working on projects I started 2 and a half years ago.

      The other challenging this is that, if we’re honest, research is still done by humans. And humans can be asses. I’ve found myself in collaborative relationships in the past, where one person was an ass (and I’m using nice words here), and made my life very difficult for a very long period of time. But because there was money involved, and other people involved, and many months of effort, it was hard to get myself out with damaging existing relationships.

    • Photo: Priyanka Dhopade

      Priyanka Dhopade answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      The most challenging thing is to not get discouraged when I don’t get the right answer. It can sometimes be frustrating when you work really hard on a problem, but just aren’t getting anywhere. So, it’s really important to talk to other people, brainstorm ideas, and work through your thoughts. And if that still doesn’t work, clearing your mind by thinking about something else gives your brain a chance to relax and sometimes, the idea comes whilst you’re doing something completely different, like taking a shower or even in a dream!

    • Photo: Joel Butler

      Joel Butler answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      The most challenging thing for me was moving to a foreign country and having to get to grips with the language, culture, system, etc. from having only a quite basic understanding. That was really tough, and I got into some really stressful situations over the course of my time in Turkey, even when I was at the stage where I thought I knew what I was saying and doing! I really learnt a lot about myself over that time though, and developed some skills I didn’t have before – and I mean strategies and resilience to deal with unexpected and confusing situations as much as I mean language and professional skills. We all face challenges in our lives caused by all sorts of situations, and we won’t always react perfectly the first time or get everything right straight away – in fact that almost never happens. The main thing is to keep going and try to take stock of all the things we learn along the way!

    • Photo: Pawan Kumar

      Pawan Kumar answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      to make your family understand that researchers has no working hours

    • Photo: Mary-Kay Thompson

      Mary-Kay Thompson answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      I agree with what everyone said of pushing through the really discouraging times. That’s the most difficult thing and sometimes you need to take the hint and go on holiday!

      One of the other things I find challenging also is to pick up new skills that you have no formal training for in order to complete your projects. For example, biology for the past decade has been undergoing a ‘big data’ explosion where we are now collecting datasets of size and complexity that far surpass what you can do with MS Excel. So we have all these biologists (including me) that have never written a line of computer code in their life encountering these huge datasets and learning how to deal with it. In the UK, I find there is more of a divide between people that do experiments and people that collect the data, but when I was getting my PhD in the US, me and most of my classmates were encouraged to just ‘figure it out’. Kind of sink or swim, but I actually really enjoyed taking some computer science classes with the undergraduates.

    • Photo: Daniel Brown

      Daniel Brown answered on 22 Sep 2017:


      The single most challenging thing to date is getting a paper published in a reputable journal from my PhD thesis. This was particularly challenging given the context and techniques I had used. The process involved rejection, constant refinement and determination. But I have now been successful, and the effort was worth the reward.

    • Photo: Pawan Kumar

      Pawan Kumar answered on 23 Sep 2017:


      Securing Funds for my research

    • Photo: Martin Pickup

      Martin Pickup answered on 25 Sep 2017:


      There’s been lots of challenges, but also a lot of fun.

      As the other guys have said, getting funding and/or jobs is hard work and can be pretty depressing when you keep getting bad news. And I found building up techincal skills quite a draining effort. It’s also really annoying when you think you’ve solved a problem but discover it doesn’t work after all!

      All in all, though, I think I’ve been very lucky. With the right colleagues and other support it’s a pretty magical job.

    • Photo: Sabina Fiolna

      Sabina Fiolna answered on 25 Sep 2017:


      I waited 22 months for the money from my grant to come without knowing if they would come at all. Quite stressful time. In the comparison to that all the rest is like a dream job.

    • Photo: Mario Collura

      Mario Collura answered on 26 Sep 2017:


      So far… writing my own research project, applying for some european funding and getting it.

    • Photo: Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez

      Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez answered on 27 Sep 2017:


      Time and Money! It is always very hard to find enough time to do all the things that you want, especially having a little child at home. Also, we need money to do research, and since everybody is looking for money it can be quite difficult to get it.

    • Photo: Sarah Finnegan

      Sarah Finnegan answered on 27 Sep 2017:


      I think my most challenging was during my first year of my PhD when nothing seemed to be working! We were trying to find this really small part of the brain and even after trying for a year we couldn’t find it. I was ready to give up but my supervisors told me to go back to basics, look at improving our technique before trying to find a slightly different part of the brain. I spent nearly 6 months improving our method before trying it again and finally we found what we were looking for! I was so lucky that I got to take those results to a conference in Hawaii and share them with lots of researchers from around the world.

    • Photo: Raquel Pinacho

      Raquel Pinacho answered on 28 Sep 2017:


      The most challenging thing I have faced so far happened really recently! This summer a paper was published showing that the compound we are working with does not actually work in the way the scientific community thought it does. At first we were all in a bit of a panic but now we are just thinking out of the box, re-designing experiments in a different way, and trying other compounds!

Comments