As I continue working on my research project this summer I’ve realized that in order to keep things in perspective that it is important that I think and plan about my future. By planning out my future I make it easier for myself to understand what I need to do now in order to accomplish them. I look forward towards my plans, ranging from short term goals for the next few years, to long term goals further down the line. It is through the completion of different short term goals that I accomplish medium term goals, which eventually lead to my long-term goals. While the picture painted by short-term goals is often clear, the specifics on longer-term goals can often be less distinct, and thus it is important to be flexible in order to shift either your approach to a goal, or to shift the goal itself. My short term goals often are designed in mind to help me accomplish more medium and long term goals and thus I often find it helpful to consider these further goals first. Overall, I would say that I’ve known my overall career goal for a long time; that is, to go into academia, and thus, only my short term goals change significantly while my long term goals have remained relatively constant. In the short term, I hope to continue working in my current lab during this academic year, and I plan on continuing working in labs for the rest of my undergraduate career. Through work in labs, as well as my continued studies, I hope to be able to identify the field of physics that I am most interested in by the end of my undergraduate studies, and to choose which graduate schools to apply based on the field I want to work in. Later down the line, after I get my Ph.D., I hope to continue in academia by working as a postdoctoral researcher and by eventually becoming a professor, and it is with this overall plan that I hope to accomplish my goal of working in academia.
Most people only really consider a few concrete factors when approaching a task or problem. They might think about how hard or how time-consuming something is, but most miss out on one of the most important aspects; their mindset. Transitioning from high school to college, I realized that I couldn’t just cruise by as easily as I had before; the classes were more difficult and the workload was larger. Later on, when I started working in a lab, I realized that similarly the style of work had changed. Going into lab I knew very little, and I had to learn a lot before I could be productive. During Eureka, one of the workshops we attended, presented by Claire Zedelius, was on the growth mindset. The growth mindset is the idea that talent and ability are gained mostly through experience and training. This is contrasted with the idea of a fixed mindset, which suggests that talent and ability are more fixed and innate. After attending the presentation I realized that I could connect these different mindsets to transitions between high school and college, and to starting research. While it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset over time, it is important to understand that not doing well immediately is not a reflection of your overall ability; rather, it is a sign of the need for more practice and knowledge. Looking back, I’ve realized that whenever I’ve faced a challenge of new content to master, I’ve had to accept that not all concepts and ideas are easy to learn, and that some require lots of work to understand. Difficulty is a natural part of the learning process, and if you constantly find yourself not facing any difficulties, it is a sign that you should push yourself further. This is the attitude I use for my work, and it is with this attitude that I plan to continue my academic career.