Have you ever wondered who scientists are? You may have seen them in movies, wearing white lab coats and thick glasses. But kids, while scientists wear lab coats in reality too, however they do so only occasionally. Apart from all the ones you see in ‘movies’, scientists are not some beings out of this world, they are humans like all of us. They have the passion to ask questions, search for answers and conduct extensive research in the fields of their study in the sciences.
Science is a general term given to hundreds of fields lying inside it and the more you explore, the more it opens up. Let’s not get into the details of the sciencesand focus on natural science for now.
Natural science includes life sciences and physical sciences. Life sciences deal with the study of living subjects, such as botany, zoology, biophysics, entomology and microbiology, among others. Physical sciences are the study of non-living subjects such as physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, etc.
Scientists methodically, logically and rationally collect and use research and evidence to conclude a study and eventually present their findings that help in the growth of an industry and the community.
How, what, where?
Scientists are always pondering over the ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ of the subject matter. The ‘how’ pertains to how will they complete the research, will they use statistics or data? The ‘what’ is about the question they are trying to find, the mystery they are trying to solve.
This can be about the elements found on Earth or the ones present in the sky, across the universe. The ‘where’ is in which industry they will use the findings of their research. Will it add value to aviation, medicine, life sciences, astronomy, etc?
How to be a scientist?
After completing your intermediate education (class 12) or your A level education in science, you enrol in a university degree programme. This is the moment where you will begin to study the courses that will lead you to become a master in a field you have chosen. After completing your bachelors and master’s degree programmes, you have to do MPhil, followed by pursuing your PhD.
By then, you would also have amassed ample work experience and knowledge to work on your thesis and conduct research in your field of study.
What makes a good scientist?
A good scientist is someone who has the following traits, among other things:
Curious: A scientist must have an inquisitive nature in order to ask questions and continue to explore life and seek a plausible, reasonable explanation for all actions.
Calm, composed and courageous: Scientists need to remain calm as they go through the trial and error of experimenting. To arrive at a conclusion, they need to conduct several tests and investigate the subject for days, they may face many failures, but they have to remain composed to reach a favourable conclusion.
Remember if a person is courageous, failures never let him/her fail. It may take months or even years, so if you want to be one, you must keep yourself poised.
Detail-oriented: Everything in the domain of science works on data, observations, facts and numbers. Presenting this data make all the difference.
Scientists should be detail-oriented when it comes to collecting, reading, analysing and presenting data. This habit will help them classify useful information under categories and add value to how they present it.
Creative: Don’t worry if you are not creative, look inside your heart, you will find a lot of skills, and having skills means you are creative and an able person.
To become a scientist, you must find alternative ways to test your hypothesis and move on with research, remember creativity comes with trial and error.
Perseverance: It may take years or decades before a scientist’s work is recognised at the national and international levels. They should exhibit values such as grit, persistence and resolution in the face of odds they experience during their research.
Communicative: The communication skills of scientists need to be immaculate. They have to share their hypothesis, ideas and research with fellow scientists and with key influencers of the industry.
Moreover, they need good communication skills to note down and share their research, elaborate on the various aspects of the survey they employed, explain their testing methods in detail, and express opinion over the technicalities of their research.
Free from bias: Scientists do not need to show any favouritism towards anything — be it a person, a fact or research. They must use their analytical skills and logic to ask questions, conduct research and arrive at solutions.
Thinkers and problem solvers: If you are aspiring to become a scientist, you need to be a thinker first. The world must be your canvas on which you paint your thoughts in the form of your research. You need to explore the very dynamics of your subject. You need to identify problems about society, community and those at the local, national, regional and international levels.
It is through such an in-depth analysis of challenges that you will question the anomalies and devise ways to resolve such challenges. Problem-solving then becomes an instinct of scientists and a way of life. They crave to use mathematical equations, conduct experiments, collect data and analyse research to present a result that helps society and the world at large.
Note: The World Science Day for Peace and Development is celebrated on November 10
Key discoveries by Muslim scientists
It is important to know our history, particularly related to scientists from the Muslim world. It will motivate all of you to give your best when pursuing a career leading you to become a scientist.
Here are five key discoveries by Muslim scientists.
It was during the year 1000 that Al Zahrawi, who was physician, published a 1500- page document. It described the process of surgery. He laid the foundations of modern surgery.
Ibn al-Haytham (965 AD- 1040) was a mathematician and physicist. He researched how light works and studied its various dynamics. His significant contributions to the principles of optics led to the development of the camera.
The first person who attempted to construct a flying machine was Abbas-ibn-Firnas. During the 9th century, he designed the concept of a winged device. It is believed that his initial designs inspired future generations to build a flying machine.
The Book of Calculation by Completion and Balancing in the Arabic language translates to Al-Kitab fi Hisab Al-Jabr Wa l-Muqabala. Al-Khwarizmi wrote this book and introduced the concept of algebra.
He developed a formula for systematically solving quadratic equations and several other concepts that are applied in algebra across the world today.
Al-Idrisi (1100 – 1165) was a geographer and is considered to have made the first medieval world maps. They were later used by voyagers to navigate across the oceans of the world.
Published in Dawn, Young World, November 7th, 2020