How to navigate academia | The Hill

Three future Ph.D. students Recently, Harvard Astronomy students gathered in my office asking for career advice.

First and foremost, they wanted to know how best to navigate the tumultuous waters of an academic career.painter pablo picasso He mastered realism early on, and later ventured into abstract painting as he innovated with his subversive Cubist style. Similarly, scientists must first master the basic principles of physics before attempting disruptive innovation.

Knowing basic physics enables scientists to explore new territories and adapt to changing research frontiers in a lifelong career. However, many scientists prefer to prematurely specialize in a niche and dig deeper into it throughout their professional careers. When innovation is wasted, narrow-minded specialists grow weary of unpopular expertise and become academic deadwood.

My answer inspired a follow-up question from a fledgling scientist about the optimal strategy for ensuring tenure euphoria. A degree retention system was introduced to encourage free thinking and to alleviate concerns about job stability due to temporary unpopularity. Ironically, however, tenure boards are filled with senior researchers who build echo chambers that resist change and raise their voices, so that the realistic path to job security is paved with conformism. I’m here. To keep a low profile, the anxiety of senior professors often leads them to favor candidates who pose no threat to their position in the field.

With that background in mind, my practical advice is to dance to the tunes of senior professors at the PhD, Postdoctoral, and Junior Faculty stages and demonstrate excellence in an established field of study. A style of the past, as Picasso’s early realism reflected popularity. The end of tenure presents an opportunity to venture into the perilous intellectual realm of disruptive innovation.

While this advice sounds sensible, you may be wondering if it is actually practiced. Unfortunately, very rare. Most scholars, even after securing tenure, subscribe for life to a dogmatic style dictated by past practices on the beaten track. With this mindset, their entire career is often shaped by the desire to impress their colleagues in order to earn honors and awards. Some people, out of jealousy, make it their mission in life to step on flowers above the level of the grass.

One of my students asked me: What is the most exciting groundbreaking research I’ve done in my career so far? especially, Upcoming Galileo Project Expeditions To retrieve fragments of the first interstellar meteor from the ocean floor of the Pacific Ocean. I started my career in basic education in physics and am now driving disruptive frontiers of research. Interstellar An object sent to our doorstep by an extraterrestrial technological civilization. There is no greater academic reward than maintaining a sincere sense of childhood curiosity, untainted by “likes” from “the adults in the room.”

Finally, prospective students asked about the benefits of groupthink in academia. I told them that the word “benefit” is contradictory in this context. Those interested in groupthink should prefer the commercial sector. Because the pay for that mindset is much higher than in academia.

Ironically, for some research topics, the commercial sector offers more opportunities for innovation than academia. Consider the emerging need to study the ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial Intelligence (AI) could shape society and politics in the near future. Philosophy teaches what philosophers who didn’t know AI said about ethics. Instead, the university will quickly address the risks of governments using AI to manipulate citizens, and businesses using AI to algorithmically manipulate the minds of his teens, compromising their mental health. need to do it.

It would be a shame if academic researchers were focused on impressing each other with variations of past knowledge at the same time as disruptive technologies changed society.The utility of academia must be agile and serve society through development future humanities Not the humanities of the past. Resistance to change stems from past practitioners and teachers who claim knowledge that glorifies discourse. Shouldn’t universities make compulsory courses on ethical risk? Chat GPT in addition to teaching Aristotle?

A major advantage of your time at the university is the opportunity to innovate and conduct blue sky research. Professors must reclaim society’s compass by engaging rather than ignoring scientific and technological disruption.

The risks are Paper in Nature found that between 1945 and 2010, the rate of disruptive progress in science and technology declined steadily. The study, which examined 45 million scientific papers and his 3.9 million patents, found that recent breakthroughs and innovations by researchers and inventors are small relative to the increase in the amount of scientific and technological research. got it. The authors found a steady decline in the rate of disruptive discoveries. This suggests that scientists today are more likely to make incremental progress than breakthroughs. The all-changing “Eureka” moments known within the field have become rarer than those associated with incremental progress.

I hope the three students who visited my office will carry the torch of academic innovation.

avi L.Oeb teeth Director of the Galileo Project at Harvard University, Founder of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative, Director of Theoretical Computation Laboratory at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Former Chair of Harvard’s Astronomy Department (2011-2020). He chairs the Breakthrough Starshot Project Advisory Board, is a former member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Science and Technology, and former chairman of the National Academy’s Physics and Astronomy Committee. Best-selling author of “”.Extraterrestrial Life: First Signs of Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life” and textbook co-author “life in cosmos,” both published in 2021. His new book,interstellar,” will be published in August 2023.

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