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Is the cream your norm? June 3, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Careers.

As a chemist, a scientist, and in general I often find myself surrounded by bright, capable people. I am sometimes aware of this, but not always. My normal interactions tend to have a pronounced bias towards the upper end of the bell curve.

When this is the usual occurence, it is easy to reshift my perception of people. I first realized this in grad school. No person in my entering class of around 25 people was dumb or not capable. All had gotten bachelor degrees in chemistry and did well enough to have very good grade-point averages and test scores on the Graduate Recprd exam.

But afyer a short while, the differences in knowledge and understanding were apparent. These often were heightened by parallel differences in the ease of learning new concepts. Our scales changed. Now it ran from the least able students to the most capable ones. Maybe useful at times, but patently specious most of the time. There were still no real dumb people in that group.

Today, my peers are chemists and other accomplished scientists. All have lots of research publications and numerous other professional accomplishments. I think of them as varied equals.

But when I have to deal with others in the field, I can be astonished unnecessarily by how little they understand. I have to remember that there are literally hundreds of thousands of PhD chemists out there, and millions of practicing chemists. I need to expand my scale to fit the context.

This might require more explanation, more patience, less jargon. It might not even be possible to explain my understanding well to them if my communications skills are not at their highest level. But that is the way science is. It is not just all the top layer that you have to deal with.



1. organikchemist - June 3, 2009

I find it partuculary hard to remember that I was not always as experienced as I am now.

2. organikchemist - June 3, 2009


Love the blog and your thoughts. I am also a little jealous of your location (SF). I used to live in Davis and spent many a weekend soaking up the SF culture…

3. John Fetzer - June 4, 2009

You might be even more envious if you knew I was about a five-minute walk from the Bay. Doing things in San Francisco, Oakland, or Berkeley is an easy BART ride away….I fact I did that today.

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