The Art of Being a Scientist
Roel Snieder and Ken Larner
Cambridge University Press, 2009
ISBN 9780521743525

"This book is so full of useful, considered and well-balanced advice that, while an interesting and stimulating read for all scientists, the main thought provoked by it is "why wasn't it around when I was a graduate student?"
" (Book review by John Brittan in The Leading Edge)

"Graduate students will find [this book] particularly useful and will likely consult it throughout their academic expericence and beyond; it will be valuable as well to undergraduate students as they consider graduate school ... It should be an excellent guide for graduate school mentors, particularly those who endeavor to offer more comprehensive training to their students." (Book review by Renee Diehl in Physics Today)

Cover of bookThis is a hands-on guide for graduate students and young researchers wishing to perfect the practical skills needed for a successful research career. By teaching junior scientists to develop effective research habits, the book helps to make the experience of graduate study a more efficient and rewarding one. Topics covered include choosing a research topic, department, and advisor; making workplans; the ethics of research; using scientific literature; perfecting oral and written communication; publishing papers; writing proposals; managing time effectively; and planning a scientific career and applying for jobs in research and industry. The wealth of advice is invaluable to students, junior researchers and mentors in all fields of science, engineering, and the humanities. The authors have taught a graduate course on the topics covered for many years, and provide a sample curriculum for instructors in graduate schools wanting to teach a similar course. The sample curriculum is available in the book as Appendix B, and as an online resource.

Click here to download the sample curriculum.

Click here see the table of contents and index, or to order the book.

Book review in Physics Today

Book review in The Leading Edge


What is science?
"Yes, science is based on logic, but it moves forward rather in fits and leaps, making ample use of intuition."

Choices, choices, choices
"Be informed, and follow what you have a real passion for."

The advisor and thesis committee
"Choose carefully and develop a good working relation."

Questions drive research
"How can you find an answer if you don't know what the question is?"

Giving directions to your work
"Set goals, and develop a strategy, but value the process and meaning of your work."

Turning challenges into opportunities
"Being stuck and confused can be the catalyst of breakthroughs; play can be, as well."

Ethics of research
"No man is an island." (John Donne)

Using the scientific literature
"Be informed, learn to drink from a fire-hose, and make a database."

"Put yourself in the shoes of your audience."

Publishing a paper
"Know who you write for, and understand the mechanics of publishing."

Time management
"We set priorities so that circumstances and others don't make the choices for us." 

Writing proposals
"Know what reviewers and program managers are looking for."

The scientific career
"Know what to expect and make your own choices."

Applying for a job
"Be informed, and pursue a win-win scenario."

Concluding remarks
  "Life is a boomerang; rely on love, enthusiasm, trust, and commitment."

Appendix, a sample curriculum
"Ideas for teachers who want to develop a course for graduate students."

Picture of a
                  young reader

Sasha van Wijk (age 3), daughter of colleague Kasper van Wijk,
engrossed in The Art of Being a Scientist. You can't start young enough!

Guerra family

Katie and Andres Guerra with their son Ariano and Roel Snieder
at the awards ceremony of the Keck Mentorship award for Andres Guerra.
Katie and Andres met in 2005 while taking "The Art of Science."