WHAT IS STYLE?
1. a particular procedure by which something is done; a manner or way.
"different styles of management"
2. a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed.
"the pillars are no exception to the general style"
Webster gives us a nice definition of ‘style’ but perhaps not a complete one. The term ‘style’ has evolved to be synonymous with a distinctive manner or way of appearance, more of a combination of the two parts of the definition, in the way that ‘a/the style’ is distinct from style.
What style is NOT, but sometimes gets confused for, is fashion, trends, and other shallow things that look good on the outside but have no value inside. The people and things that have style are the ones that are true to themselves, whose legacies and images withstand the test of time, whose paintings or songs or movies stand out in no matter what generation or age or millennium, the ones you still feel a connection to even years after they were made. When I think of who to me has style, I think of the likes of David Bowie, how The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on repeat will make any bad day seem better. Or one of my favorite artists Winslow Homer, how his paintings of waves and the battered coast of Maine seem as if the wind and water could knock you over at any minute. Or my childhood pet, an English bulldog named Buddie, how she did what she wanted when she wanted and didn’t care very much what anyone else thought about it, be it barking at non-existent squirrels or going for a ‘walk’ which usually ended at the top of the driveway. Style is about never compromising who you are and in letting your passion and heart shine through in everything you do (even if your passion and heart include lazily laying on the kitchen floor, a la English Bulldog style).
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Style is about doing something distinctive, with substance, and in a manner or way that lets you be true to yourself. Science also has a strong need for the concept of style in what we do. And in reality a lot of what we do already HAS style: our work is distinctive by nature, we do it in such a way (replicates, validated methods, peer review, etc) that our results have substance, and we can let our passions for truth, knowledge, and making the world a better place come through in the way we present ourselves and our research. So why then do we never think about science and style in the same sentence?
A recent article by NPR nicely touched on how the skills we have outside of the facts we know are so important for success. But, the question becomes, what do we call this skillset? Terms like ‘soft skills’ make it seem like these things aren’t important, terms like ‘grit’ sound too American, ‘21st century skills’ isn’t quite accurate, since it’s not just about tweets and Powerpoint. Certainly there’s some other term that encompasses this vast array of life skills, everything from how to manage your time amidst emails and meetings and getting real work done, how to present a project in 5 minutes and convince a room of people it’s worth funding, how to talk about your research when a journalist has a microphone recorder to your face and with questions coming fast.
A lot of these skills can fit under the mantle of style, and it’s because of the importance of defining your personal style when it comes to making your research matter that I’ve started this blog. My goal is to use this blog as a forum for us to talk not just about doing science but in fostering Science with Style. This blog is here as a place for exchanging stories and experiences, talking about ways to better share and demonstrate the impact of our research, and to work towards helping everyone find their own style as they get ready for whatever comes next in their careers.
So often during grad school or our time as a post-doc, we focus on the small things: getting that assay to work, answering frantic emails from advisors about when our results will be ready, trying to figure out if we filled out the paperwork correctly for that DEA regulated drug that we need for one crucial experiment. These things are all important but can also distract us from the bigger picture. Why did I become a scientist? Why am I stressed? Why does my work matter? Why am I running this same stupid assay for the 14th time??
WHY SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT DOING SCIENCE WITH STYLE?
In this day and age, being a scientist means more than just doing science. But what does it mean to BE a scientist, and how can we go from just doing science to making science matter? In a recent study done by Princeton University, scientists as a group are seen as one of the most competent types of workers out there… but we’re far from being trusted. We work hard to make a difference in the world, be it with global climate change or air quality or cancer cures, but does the world understand what we do? How can we make a difference when the public trust the latest diet trend or journalistic scare tactic more than they do hard facts generated by the scientific method? Here lies the importance of doing science with style: We can work as hard as we can for our whole lives, but if no one understands, cares, or even knows what we do then it’s all for naught.
Our advisors and bosses aren’t here to be our style guides, they’re here to help us become good scientists. Style has no formal training these days, and my hope is that with this blog I can help you on the road towards figuring out what your style is. I’ll have posts on everything from giving presentations in a way that keeps people off their phones the whole time, promoting your research to your science icon when you meet them at a conference, finding an outlet to share your work and to let your passion for science shine, guest posts from scientists in different types of jobs talking about what their days look like, and some (hopefully) humorous insights into what life as a scientist is really like.
I hope that you enjoy this blog and I am looking forward to hearing from you about your science, your passion, your personality, and how you bring it all together as a Scientist with STYLE!