The survival guide for an introvert in science
Issued: 26 Feb 2018

Lynn Nazareth, PhD Candidate from Griffith University offers some tips for science introverts.

Lynn Nazareth, PhD Candidate from Griffith University offers some tips for science introverts

I wake up startled — it takes a couple of seconds for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. The alarm clock on my phone informs me it is 5 am. I am not a morning person and trying a little experiment (I am a scientist 😀) to prove “thirty days make a habit”. I registered at the local gym for the morning group fitness class at 5.45 am.

Three months in and I have made it most days!

I love group fitness classes, in many ways it mirrors my life as a scientist. You are part of a team, yet you are on an individual journey. I am also very competitive, so when surrounded by people who are good at what they do I push myself to be better than them. But then there is always that person who is simply too good, that triathlete you can always find in the gym, the person you just can’t compete with. What do you do then?

What got me thinking about this is a recent seminar series at my research institute where alumni came in and talked about their career path. One of the main themes during the discussion was the importance of networking. That night when I got back home, logging onto Twitter I saw a post by a fellow Ph.D. candidate which read: ‘Is there still a place in science for the introvert, who needs time to settle but excels once they have become a part of a new company/lab? Given current shortness of contracts and changing culture, I fear there may not be.’

As an introvert, networking doesn’t come naturally to me. Today, as a scientist, you also have to be excellent at communicating your research, and promoting yourself, something I truly struggle with. When I thought of becoming a scientist, I envisioned myself being in my white lab coat, doing my experiments, solving the mysteries of life while I help make the world a better place. I do get to do this. But, is being good at science not good enough anymore? If I don’t get out there, network and promote myself and my research, will I get lost in a sea of white lab coats? Then you have the triathlete, the person who is fantastic at what they do and a pro at networking and promoting. What hope do I have competing against them?

A phone call from my mum jolts me back to reality. My mum, a very wise woman, reminded me of how far I have come. At my first networking event, I stood in the corner for 10 min and fled the room petrified! Today, I actually seek out networking events, engage in public speaking and participate in science outreach activities.

The key was to identify my own unique strengths as an introvert. I may not be good at talking to everyone in the room at an event, but I can have a meaningful conversation with at least one or two people. This way, I walk away knowing the people I have spoken to will actually remember me (Tip for you: Remember to connect with your new connections on LinkedIn or Twitter the next day!).

I also constantly push my boundaries, by regularly going to networking events such as Ausbiotech’s BioCheers and participate in science outreach initiatives (Catch a Rising star). Also from time to time, I look back at my journey and give myself some credit for how far I have come.

You may be able to relate to some of my experiences — and I would be happy to connect to share these experiences (in a one-on-one session of course) to discuss.

The amazing video below by Susan Cain helped me identify my strengths as an introvert. I hope you can take some inspiration and excel in your science career…even if you’re an introvert.

Thanks to Lynn Nazareth for her blog to help Queensland scientists communicate their great science achievements.

If you’d like to submit a blog email info@chiefscientist.qld.gov.au. And don’t forget to follow Queensland Science Facebook.