This morning I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Darius Ebrahimi-Fakhari discuss some of his latest work regarding mitophagy in neurons. He had oodles of cool videos depicting mitochondria trucking back and forth down the axon – similar to the gif below (pulled from Dr. Kittler’s lab at UCL).
The work itself was elegant, with an organized methodical approach utilizing the most novel techniques available. However, what truly captured my attention was the fluency with which he spoke of his work. Becoming a scientist is not hard: you just have to look at questions in a certain way. Working within a specific field IS hard. You have to become intimately familiar with the relevant signalling pathways, how they operate under different conditions, and of course, the nonsensical and often multiple names for different proteins within the pathway.
Not only that, but SO much emphasis is placed on knowing who published what in where and when. It is not enough to say, “p62 knockdown causes mitochondria to accumulate within the soma of the neuron.” Rather, as Darius did, you should say, “oh, Alessia in her 2009 paper showed that p62…” etc. etc.
Now, some of this comes with sheer time. Once you’ve been working in the same environment talking about the same thing, concepts become ingrained. But I’ve been a research technician in this lab for over two years and I’m only JUST beginning to be able to name some of the ancillary proteins of the mTOR pathway offhand.
Also, when you and I talk, we use a lot of “filler” sounds; “um,” “uh,” and “like,” to name a few. These verbal spaces are reflective of our mental states: we’re still searching for the right words. However, if you want to sound intelligent (and scientists especially do), you have to entirely remove those filler words. Not only will this provide a more cogent speech pattern, but also give you confidence. This in turn will make the listener more confident that you actually know what the heck you are talking about, which is the crux of scientific discourse.
This is not to say you should sound like a research paper when you’re talking, but rather that you can find the appropriate names for all of those wacky proteins at the tip of your tongue, and you know EXACTLY what they do and WHO discovered they do that. Oh, and in what model and in what context would also be helpful.
I know, I know, this all sounds like a headache and a half. However, if you can master this lexicon of the esoteric, you will sound like the smartest guy alive.