B Skills and Attributes that Contribute to Success in Science or Engineering
Ellis B. Cowling
Graduate education is a process by which individual master's-degree and doctoral-degree candidates develop into scientists, engineers, or other professionals who are capable of independent research, development, and application activities of high quality. Progress is achieved by the student with the guidance of an advisory committee of faculty drawn from the university department(s) in which the student is pursuing the degree. Because the career path of every student is unique, the counsel that any particular student receives from faculty advisers should be tailored to fit each individual student's unique set of developing skills, abilities, personality characteristics, and career aspirations. This counsel should also be distinctive and appropriate to the degree for which the student is a candidate.
The challenge for students is to know themselves well enough to
- Understand their particular strengths and weaknesses as aspiring scientists, engineers, or other professionals.
- Be wise in the selection of their major professor and other members of an advisory committee who can help them realize as much as possible of their potential.
- Be persistent in seeking to maximize their progress in realizing as much as possible of their potential.
The challenge for faculty advisers is to get to know the student well enough to understand the present stage of development of the student's abilities and his or her potential for improvement. The committee also must have the wisdom to know how to help the student to achieve something approaching his or her full potential.
The objective of all interactions between the student, the major professor, and other members of the advisory committee should be to maintain abilities in which the student already has developed strength while helping him or her to increase abilities that are not yet developed fully.
The following lists of abilities have been prepared as a guide to the interactive processes through which individual graduate students and advisory committees can work together to meet the goal of creating a new scientist, engineer, or professional of high quality.
Skills and Attributes that Contribute to a Successful Career as a Scientist, Engineer, Scholar, or Professional
- Discrimination—ability to distinguish what is important from what is trivial
- Imagination and creativity
- Common sense
- Skill in observation of natural, technical, or social phenomena
- Systematic problem-solving
- A good memory
- Capacity for logical reasoning, including abstract and theoretical reasoning
- Capacity to draw logical inferences from observational and experimental data
- Ability to conceive an explanatory hypothesis and design critical tests to evaluate it
- Capacity to retrieve information from published sources
- Skill in learning by interview methods
- Capacity to communicate in writing
- Capacity to communicate orally
- Skill in use of computers and other information-processing devices
- Skill in graphic display of information and ideas
- Motivation and drive
- Capacity to work effectively with superiors, peers, and subordinates
- Initiative and sense of responsibility
- Capacity for objective self-criticism
- Leadership and management skills
Habits of Work
- Efficiency in the use of time
- Persistence—ability to see things through to completion
- Capacity for sustained intellectual and physical work
- Ability to meet deadlines
- Manual dexterity
- Skill in the development, selection, and use of appropriate scientific, engineering, or artistic apparatus, machines, and models