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  • Writer's pictureSarah Emerson, PhD

Any Questions?

In the pursuit of knowledge, scientists must inevitably ask a plethora of questions, but sometimes asking questions can be tough. Self-doubt and over thinking can lead to hesitation.

You could be stuck on a lab math problem, be confused about a new lab protocol, curious about a point in a seminar, the life of a scientist is full of healthy curiosity and a need for explanation. The truth is, every successful scientist knows the value of asking questions.

Here are 4 reasons why asking questions always pays off, and some top tips to help you take the plunge:

1. Save your precious time.

The most important reason to ask that burning question is to save time. If you are stuck on something and puzzled for too long, just ask. Sure, do a quick google search first, but getting over your confusion quickly allows you to move forward to bigger and better things.

2. Reduce stress.

Being stuck on a problem can be frustrating. Getting clarification when needed will not only eliminate your source of stress but also make you more confident in your work and can help develop bonds between you and your peers. Teamwork in science is key, and generating an environment of collaboration and support is the healthiest and most stress-free way to be.

3. Getting involved

The next time someone presents their work to you, set the goal of asking a question, or two. This will make sure you stay engaged and can spark interesting and helpful conversations for the presenter. You will find you get so much more out of the experience, and you will demonstrate your interest to the presenter and the audience.

4. Helping others

If you have a question, odds are someone else in the room has the same one too, and they’ll be glad you asked it! Not only can you help others streamline their path to clarity in the moment, generating awareness of confusion could help eliminate it from situations in the future. Maybe someone explains something a little differently in their next presentation, maybe a more clear protocol is written up for people to share in the lab.


Top Tips:

Asking questions in class/seminars/lab meetings.

Sit at the front of the audience and be the first to ask a question.

Practice makes perfect! The more you ask questions, the more comfortable you will become (I promise!) If you’re struggling to get started, set yourself a challenge. “Every lab meeting, I have to ask one question”, then ramp it up to two until it starts to feel natural.

Asking people of seniority

If you’re anxious about asking someone of seniority a question, remember, odds are the question you are asking, they have had to ask themselves. BONUS; If they haven’t asked themselves before, this is a learning opportunity for you both!

And remember: People who don’t have to ask questions are not learning. If you push yourself out of your comfort zone to the point of needing to ask questions, you are expanding your knowledge, skill sets and making yourself a better scientist. Everyone learns things at different times, this could be your time!


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