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Assessing your ability to succeed at a high level in Sci/Eng

  1. Jun 26, 2009 #1
    Hi all,

    How does one go about in a systematic, unbiased way of determining if one has the capabilities to succeed at the level of the engineers and scientists who invented stuff like the transistor, lasers, the CAT and MRI scanners (or more lately - STMs and EM cloaks) ?

    Is it really just very high GPAs and IQs that can predict success in these fields ?- think about people like Dean Kamen

    Can one realistically reach these levels through just the training at undergrad and graduate institutions? -what aren't they teaching us?

    How to know that you aren't deluding yourself and wasting time by pursuing something for which you don't have the talent ?

    There's tentative evidence that certain aspects of intelligence can be trained,see (http://www.pnas.org/content/105/19/6829.full.pdf+html) - what hope is there for us without "real talent" ?-do we wait for the singularity in 2045 or something?

    P.S.: I could care less about the pure physics stuff nowadays, concerning string theory,dark matter,Higgs,etc...and hope I wasn't too rambling.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2009 #2


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    There's no real litmus test for success, I'm afraid. At some point, you just have to jump in and see if you can swim.

    It's not always the people with the highest GPAs or IQs that turn out to be the best researchers or inventors. It certainly helps to have a little more "horsepower between the ears" as my father would say, but that will only get you so far. You also need:
    - a certain amout of creativity
    - a strong work ethic
    - a strong personal drive
    - communication and collaboration skills
    - strong mentors
    - strong collaborators
    - funding opportunities

    And even all that won't guarantee you success. You can take a brilliant student, give him or her the best education and all the opportunity in the world and you still won't be guaranteed a Nobel prize.

    On the flip side, a personal observation I have is that sometimes the 'average' students (although I'm talking 'average' graduate students here) end up being better researchers than their high GPA counterparts.
  4. Jun 27, 2009 #3
    Those without real talent can read novels or something, there's always something amusing to do. Don't get hung up on the old "I'm nothing if I don't have talent"
  5. Jun 27, 2009 #4
    This is something which each & everyone has gone through(including me, in past that is). Everyone tries to find that magic trick to succeed by emulating the best in business. People should just let go of it, & concentrate and do their level best on whatever that they are doing.
  6. Jul 18, 2009 #5
    It's only my view, but then one can only give an opinion of their own view?

    My experience through life has shown me that any individual person always wants to be somebody else?


    Education to me has been designed to lead people to a conclusion, to direct them to a certain type of industry or job, but is that job really available now, and would it be a few years down the line?

    I have like many in my younger days struggled to get a job, when I have got the job I thought I wanted I then thought my life was secure and OK?

    Look now at the so-called global recession, does it really exist, can you prove it either way, has it affected your life, is there really a shortage of money around the planet?

    The British Government have been throwing billions of pounds around and they don't seem to have a problem in reality, the Americans have just sent a 2 billion dollar investment to the moon?

    What am I saying here?

    The individual needs to think very clearly, who am I and what do I want out of life to make my life better, what is the system offering me, not what does the system want out of me?

    If your chosen career is to be an engineer, and you have always wanted to be an engineer, then nobody will change your mind, you will be an engineer. When I left school I wanted to be an engineer, some 26 years later I am still an engineer, nobody changed my mind.

    In my day we did not have computers and career advisors, we had to plan out ourselves what we wanted to do. I didn't waist my life wanting to be anyone else because that is not a reality, you are what you are as an individual, that's it, nobody is bourne with any super wisdom which is not available to any other person, you just have to learn to think for yourself, work your brain like doing weight training, but this time you have to read a lot and do plenty problem solving in your area of expertise.

    Wisdom in your own mind will grow, you will achieve goals that you never thought you could achieve, not only that you will soon realise that the social circles around you are not as increased in wisdom as you are, you will see what I mean when you achieve it?

    Go out there and achieve what you wish to achieve for you as an individual, take from the system what you need, make your own life better, you never know, the system is not that intelligent, it just may look to you in the future for advice?

  7. Jul 18, 2009 #6

    Anyway, what are you going to do if you can't succeed at the highest levels? Give up and go flip burgers? There is plenty of room to succeed at lower levels. Not everyone can revolutionize the world, most just help keep the slow drumbeat of progress going.
  8. Jul 19, 2009 #7
    Yeah, I would re-iterate TMFKAN64's point. Science is like a mountain, you have the Feynman's and Newton's at the top that get famous but beneath them there are many more people working who will not be famous, but without their work we would not have the work of Feynman etc.

    We are just standing on the shoulders of giants after all.
  9. Jul 19, 2009 #8
    I've also had this thought before, but I realized one thing. I may not become Einstein or Newton because of my limited intelligence, but who would I be if I said "I'm not smart enough for this" and settled for a job that I would enjoy less?
  10. Jul 19, 2009 #9


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    Wouldn't that be more like the giants standing on a pile of little people? :wink: (now there's an uncomfortable image...)
  11. Jul 19, 2009 #10


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