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16 June 2016


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I'm very glad that you liked the post! I've been amazed at what a large fraction of people have been willing to describe their struggles with similar feelings as the ones I had (and have).

My personal epiphany came near the end of grad school, when I realized that certain "great" scientists were more willing to openly admit their ignorance than some "less great" ones. Their example helped me a great deal.

And I should acknowledge that I had essentially every demographic advantage as a science student. I can only imagine how much harder things would have been if I hadn't.


In the book, "Expecting Adam" about becoming parents while students at Harvard, there is a GREAT story related to this, that I read as a graduate student and found very enlightening (mainly as in, "it lightened the load of imposter syndrome on my shoulders"). I'll butcher it, but basically, the narrator goes to visit a friend and see her psychology experiment, where the friend has mice swimming in a wading pool for some reason, and the kiddie pool they happened to have just happened to have smurfs on it. As she slips into her seminar, just a shade late, she apologetically mentions she had been watching "mice swim in a Smurf pool". And then everyone else nods knowingly, and one person comments something like, "Dr. Smurf, yes, he's doing good work." And suddenly she realizes everyone else is faking it too :) (I think she was in Sociology)

This is an important point, and so well laid out - thanks for drawing attention to it, Bearing. But can you afford to be the one charting a new course if you aren't "great" and therefore "safe" (as it were)? The "avoid scorn" part is good advice for all situations, but asking questions can be harder.

In a book I listened to recently, there was a description of Heidelberg giving a lecture in Switzerland, and someone standing up in the introductory part to say, "Yes, we all know all this- get to the interesting part." Who will be the student to respond with, "Well, actually, I don't, so please continue sir!"? I cringed internally when I heard it.

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I think I read something somewhere about this

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