National Academies Press: OpenBook

Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond (1996)

Chapter: B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING

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Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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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.
Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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  • 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.

Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×

Skills and Attributes that Contribute to a Successful Career as a Scientist, Engineer, Scholar, or Professional

Intellectual Skills
  1. Honesty
  2. Curiosity
  3. Discrimination—ability to distinguish what is important from what is trivial
  4. Imagination and creativity
  5. Common sense
  6. Objectivity
  7. Intuition
  8. Skill in observation of natural, technical, or social phenomena
  9. Systematic problem-solving
  10. A good memory
  11. Capacity for logical reasoning, including abstract and theoretical reasoning
  12. Capacity to draw logical inferences from observational and experimental data
  13. Ability to conceive an explanatory hypothesis and design critical tests to evaluate it
Communication Skills
  1. Capacity to retrieve information from published sources
  2. Skill in learning by interview methods
  3. Capacity to communicate in writing
  4. Capacity to communicate orally
  5. Skill in use of computers and other information-processing devices
  6. Skill in graphic display of information and ideas
Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×
Personality Characteristics
  1. Maturity
  2. Motivation and drive
  3. Self-confidence
  4. Dependability
  5. Independence
  6. Empathy
  7. Capacity to work effectively with superiors, peers, and subordinates
  8. Initiative and sense of responsibility
  9. Capacity for objective self-criticism
  10. Leadership and management skills
Habits of Work
  1. Efficiency in the use of time
  2. Persistence—ability to see things through to completion
  3. Capacity for sustained intellectual and physical work
  4. Orderliness
  5. Ability to meet deadlines
Mechanical Skills
  1. Manual dexterity
  2. Skill in the development, selection, and use of appropriate scientific, engineering, or artistic apparatus, machines, and models
Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×
Page 131
Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×
Page 132
Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×
Page 133
Suggested Citation:"B SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUCCESS IN SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×
Page 134
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As science and technology advance, the needs of employers change, and these changes continually reshape the job market for scientists and engineers. Such shifts present challenges for students as they struggle to make well-informed education and career choices. Careers in Science and Engineering offers guidance to students on planning careers--particularly careers in nonacademic settings--and acquiring the education necessary to attain career goals. This booklet is designed for graduate science and engineering students currently in or soon to graduate from a university, as well as undergraduates in their third or fourth year of study who are deciding whether or not to pursue graduate education. The content has been reviewed by a number of student focus groups and an advisory committee that included students and representatives of several disciplinary societies. Careers in Science and Engineering offers advice on not only surviving but also enjoying a science- or engineering-related education and career-- how to find out about possible careers to pursue, choose a graduate school, select a research project, work with advisers, balance breadth against specialization, obtain funding, evaluate postdoctoral appointments, build skills, and more. Throughout, Careers in Science and Engineering lists resources and suggests people to interview in order to gather the information and insights needed to make good education and career choices. The booklet also offers profiles of science and engineering professionals in a variety of careers. Careers in Science and Engineering will be important to undergraduate and graduate students who have decided to pursue a career in science and engineering or related areas. It will also be of interest to faculty, counselors, and education administrators.

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