Sometimes when you are so close to something it is difficult to see problems associated with it. It can be difficult to find answers . Taking some time out and having a break often leads me to thinking about things differently and coming up with something better than what I was doing before. This can mean a short break to get a cup of tea from the 5th floor or a week off out of the lab. I have always known this about myself and during my undergrad I would take breaks (such as taking a bath) half way through peices of course work in order to get what I was trying to work on clear in my mind.
My supervisor sent me a link to some papers yesterday, including one called ‘Could Do Better: A Curious Clinician Looks Back – and Forward’. Although not particularly of any use to my PhD subject I printed it off, took it home and read it last night. It is a lovely autobiography of Dr Calbert I. Phillips. The paper turned out to be a very enlightning read (in a number of different ways!). He talks through his career, the things he learnt, many ideas he had (including ones about the national health service organisation), barriers he faced and triumphs he had. I can remember in a job I had before my PhD that people were encouraged to write personal summaries of things they had learnt and share them with others. I think this is important and more summaries like this should be written by people when they retire! Many of the things he said rang true with me and I just wanted to share a few extracts,
‘Keep an ‘ideas’ file, although many will turn out to be nonviable’
‘Super-ultra-hyper-specialize: that will widen your horizons enormously’
‘Think the unthinkable: accept and assume nothing’
‘Collaborate with basic scientists, especially statisticians’
And my personal favourite, ‘I was invited to a party in Boston, with some biochemists, one of whom had worked for some years in “Cambridge, England”. “Did you meet Watson or Crick?,” said I. Said he, “I’m Watson”.
Most of all the paper reminded me to take time out, not to dismiss things because they are not current (many things can be learnt from the past and from elders) and to remember to read widely and often, as sometimes things can occur to you when you least expect it.