Does watching and reading about scientists excite you? Do you love knowing about the lifestyle and hardships of great scientists? Do you feel motivated after knowing the various difficulties they overcame to become scientists? Do you want to see yourself as one of them? And, most importantly, do you actually want to do research with passion and enthusiasm rather than simply be called a “scientist”? If your answer is yes to all of these questions, then this blog is for you.
In this blog, we will talk about:
- What is a scientist?
- What are the types of scientists?
- What path to follow?
- What are the future opportunities?
What is a scientist?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a scientist is an expert who studies or works in one of the sciences. Different sources use different combinations of words to define what a scientist is. A scientist is like a detective who uncovers nature’s mysteries, including physics, medicine, chemistry, forensics, politics, et cetera. A scientist works on various domains, teaches in universities, conducts research in laboratories, constructs complex models to predict future possibilities, theorizes to develop an understanding of various mysteries, solves various real-world problems and does many other things.
A scientist is generally a researcher with great scientific knowledge and a PhD. But this definition isn’t general because some engineers with great skills work as scientists in many research organizations (e.g., ISRO). There is no perfect and accurate definition of a scientist. But a scientist definitely has higher education, a scientific problem-solving approach, and a passion and enthusiasm for learning. Albert Einstein once said,” A scientist is someone whose inner child is still alive”.
What are the types of scientists?
The term scientist has a very broad representation. Various kinds of scientists study different fields and are named according to their fields. For example, a scientist studying Physics is a physicist, while a scientist studying geology is a geologist. Well, these terminologies don’t stop here. There are various sub-fields within a single discipline, hence more nomenclatures. A few types of scientists are discussed below:
Physicists are scientists who study the laws of physics and apply their knowledge and skills to solve various real-world problems and mysteries. There are many sub-fields in physics, and scientists specialising in those fields are given corresponding names. Here are some examples of them:
- Astrophysicists study astrophysics.
- Quantum Physicists study quantum mechanics.
- Nuclear Physicists study nuclear physics.
- Theoretical Physicists work on the theoretical aspect of physics.
- Experimental Physicists work on experimentation.
- Astronomers observe space using various methodologies.
- Space Scientists study space.
Some of the most popular Physicists are Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, CV Raman, Chandrashekhar, Stephen Hawking, Richard Feynman, Marie Curie, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and many others. Check out our other blogs to learn in-depth about types of physicists.
The scientists involved in the study of chemistry are chemical scientists, or chemists. Their work involves discovering the chemical structure of any compound, either from nature or obtained by synthesis, among many other things. There are various sub-fields of chemistry, and the scientists are named accordingly. A few examples are given below:
- Organic Chemists study pure organic compounds and their synthesis.
- Biochemists study the play of chemistry in biological systems.
- Medicinal/Drug Chemists work on the production of effective drugs and medicines.
- Inorganic chemists study inorganic compounds.
- Analytical chemists work on the analysis of substances.
Some of the most popular chemists are Linus Pauling, Marie Curie, Alfred Nobel, C.N.R. Rao, etc.
Geoscience is the study of Earth and its environment, exploring how various phenomena occur and studying their impacts. Geoscientists study the composition, structure, and movements of the earth. They contribute to discovering mines, petroleum deposits, minerals, and other aspects of the earth. Earth science (geoscience) is a relatively new field with much to explore. There are many sub-fields, and the scientists are named accordingly, such as
- Seismologists study earthquakes.
- Geophysicists study the dynamics of the earth and its interior.
- Volcanologists study volcanoes.
- Sedimentologists study sediments and sedimentary rocks.
- Palaeontologists study fossils.
- Hydrologists study water, its flow, and its availability.
- Meteorologists study weather.
- Some scientists work on Disaster Management. They study causes and prevention/precaution of disasters.
- Environmental Scientists study climate change and various damages to the environment.
Let us know in the comment section if you want to know more about these topics.
These scientists are closely associated with Doctors and help in understanding various diseases. They study the cause, effect and treatment of various diseases, thus improving human health. They played a significant role during the Covid-19 pandemic by thoroughly studying the viral structure to check for possible vaccines. They design drugs, vaccines, antidotes, diagnostic kits, nutrition supplements, and other essential health requirements. There are many sub-fields, and the scientists are named accordingly, such as
- Pharmacologists develop drugs/medicines.
- Nutritional Scientists/dietitians study the nutrition contribution of various foods.
- Pathologists examine laboratory samples of body tissue for diagnostic or forensic purposes.
- Toxicologists investigate the adverse effects of chemicals on the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
Some popular medical scientists include Albert Hofman and Ronald Kessler. If you want to know how the medical field differs from the research field, check out this blog.
These scientists study living beings such as animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses and their characteristics. Biologists can work in various settings, such as laboratories, field stations, universities, hospitals, and industries. Here are some types of biologists named after the work they do:
- Zoologists study animals.
- Botanists study plants.
- Microbiologists study microbes such as – Bacteria (bacteriologists), Viruses (virologists), etc.
- Ornithologists study birds, Entomologists study insects, and Ichthyologists study fishes.
- Marine biologists study life in oceans.
- Astrobiologists study life in space.
Some of the most popular biologists are Charles Darwin, Richard Fleming, William Harvey, Salim Ali, Gregor Mendel, etc. If you are interested in biology and want to become a biologist, don’t forget to check out this blog.
These scientists study agricultural practices and solve issues related to them. They are concerned with the methods and improvement of agriculture. They study crop varieties, soil characteristics, crop diseases, etc. and aim to enhance crop yield, prevent diseases, and survive drought and other conditions. Here are some types of agricultural scientists:
- Animal scientists study how domestic farm animals are used for food.
- Soil scientists study soil and its characteristics.
- Horticulturists study flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
These scientists are like detectives who study how people interact with each other and how societies work. They use various methodologies like surveying, interviewing, and observing to gather information. They are divided into various kinds depending on the work they do. Some of them are listed below:
- Sociologists study human society, social structures, and interactions.
- Psychologists study human behaviour and mental processes.
- Anthropologists study human cultures, societies, and their development throughout history.
- Economists study economic systems, market behaviour, and factors influencing economic growth.
- Political scientists examine political systems, institutions, and processes.
- Geographers study the spatial distribution of human activities, landscapes, and the relationships between people and their environment.
- Linguistic anthropologists focus on studying language and its relationship to culture and society.
Karl Marx, Benjamin Franklin and Sigmund Freud are some of the most influential social scientists.
Forensic scientists are experts who apply scientific methods to analyze evidence and assist in legal investigations. Forensic science is an interdisciplinary science in which scientists deduce or conclude crime scenes using knowledge of physics, chemistry, anatomy, etc.
As you can see, the term scientist has a very broad representation. There is a lot of information around us and we need different people with different understandings and skills but with the same scientific approach to absorb that knowledge and solve real-world issues using that. That would give a meaningful description of what a scientist is.
What path to follow?
The most important thing is to reflect on whether you really want to devote your life to science or just enjoy knowing stuff. If you enjoy the later part, then you may not need to become a scientist, because to become a scientist, you also need to be ready to accept all mental and financial challenges. You may not enjoy the same attractive salary as your engineer or businessman friends, but the level of satisfaction can’t be compared to any other thing. You need to be ready to accept your flaws and failures. You may work on a project for two straight years only to start from scratch.
What path you should follow depends heavily on your field of interest. You should not completely decide on your field before joining your college. Try to keep your mind open while learning various new things. Try joining a college that provides a BSc, BS, or integrated BS-MS degree after your 12th. You can also choose BTech and then MTech to complete your post-graduation. IISc, IISERs, NISER, IITs, Delhi University, etc., provide such programs and are well-recognized worldwide. In the first year, all subjects are usually taught, and sometimes students from PCB backgrounds end up loving Maths or vice versa. Whatever you choose for your 12th grade doesn’t matter.
After your first or second year, you will get to choose a major. This major subject will determine what field you will do your research in. Still, there are a few exceptions to this. Due to the increased popularity of interdisciplinary research, few students from one department do their thesis or research in another department. For example, a student from the Chemistry Department of IISER-Kolkata is doing his PhD at Cambridge in Astrophysics. Hence, you must focus on learning new things while keeping your heart and mind open.
Try to do a few internships to gain more research experience. Talk to your seniors and professors to stay updated on the latest developments. Involve yourself in healthy and scientific discussions and try to learn from everyone. Attend seminars or webinars being hosted at your college. Join labs if you are interested in experimental works. If you want to know more about internships, check out this blog.
After your graduation, apply abroad for PhDs. PhD from one of the top universities in the world will let you explore that field extensively. You can also join PhD programs in India by taking exams like GATE and NET, among others. Completing a PhD is believed to be the hardest part of one’s journey to become a scientist. You must choose your guide carefully because it directly affects your work environment. And if you continue to accept all the challenges and failures, gradually, you will find yourself as a scientist doing research.
Becoming a scientist may not seem like a financially attractive career, but that’s not how it actually is. You will be earning enough money to sustain yourself and enjoy your life. But that will take a long time before becoming a reality. You can get various scholarships and grants. Research scholars are given a stipend of around Rs. 37,000 to Rs. 63,000 in India depending on your fellowship stage for example, Junior Research Fellow (JRF), Senior Research Fellow(SRF), etc. The salary structure in academia (like Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, etc) and salary in industry also differ based on your area of expertise, experience & seniority level.
After completing your degrees, you can join research firms, organisations, etc. The need for scientific knowledge and research is increasing day by day. There are a variety of careers depending on the field you choose. A few examples are given below;
- You can work on climate change problems. Your work will comprise field-works, collecting samples, analysing satellite images, attending conferences, and meeting with government officials regarding various schemes that need to be implemented.
- You can join space organisations like ISRO, where you can use your expertise on different projects. Check out this blog if you want to know more about ISRO.
- You can research diseases and healthcare improvements. The Covid-19 pandemic showed us the importance of biologists and medicinal scientists.
- You can work in firms like ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), pharmaceutical firms, or defence organizations like DRDO. Check out this blog to learn more about DRDO.
- You can join an institute as a researcher and teach students along the way. You will be free to research while the institute funds it.
- You can also become an advisor on various socio-political matters to the government.
These are only a few examples of the diverse career options that open up after becoming a scientist. What opportunities open up for you depends heavily on your field, so if you want to know more about a particular field and the career opportunities it offers, comment below.
Becoming a scientist is difficult, but if you enjoy science and are ready to devote yourself to it, you will successfully achieve your goal. The number of career opportunities is increasing day by day. As Albert Einstein rightly said, ‘‘The more we know, the more is left to be known.’’ And to know what is yet to be known, we need Scientists.
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