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Susanne Reffert | IPMU | Japan

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What Should I Tell Them?

Towards the end of this month, I have a somewhat unusual assignment. I am to give a 1.5 hours lecture to high school students attending a math camp at IPMU. Title: “My Study”. I am supposed to talk about my experience studying and what I work on now. I guess the idea is that the high school students see how the career path of a scientist goes.
Public outreach is of course an important part of our work, so I am happy to do this. But what should I tell them?
What is important to know for someone still in school who is contemplating a career in science?
Even though this is far from filling up 1.5 hours, there are two points I personally find important which I will definitely mention: motivation and perseverance. It takes a lot of genuine interest and curiosity to become a scientist. This is what gives you the necessary motivation. It is more important than being able to perform well on the math exercises that are required in high school (I sucked at that because it was boring). Science it not something you do for the money, you must really love doing it.
The second point is that one must not be discouraged if one doesn’t understand things immediately. It’s normal that new things at first seem very hard and confusing. The point is that it takes perseverance and work to learn any topic in science. When I was studying for my final exams during the last year of university, I realized that even though I hardly ever understood new things immediately during the lectures, eventually I was able to understand everything in my textbooks and lecture notes. It often took some work, picking things apart, and going meticulously through every step in the derivation, but in the end, everything became clear.

I guess coming up with useful things to say during those 1.5 hours is going to take another bit of work and perseverance…. but by now, I should be used to that, right?

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