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  • Writer's pictureNaoki Kogo

PhD "training"??

Four years of PhD program is supposed to be a period of training for the students to grow as a scientist. Right. But...

Question: How many PhD students today read classic papers/books?

-The "classic papers/books" being the series of papers by Hodgkin & Huxley or Hubel and Wiesel for electrophysiology, "Origin of species" or Watson and Crick papers for biology, "Principia Mathematica" or papers by the pioneers of quantum physics in early 20th century for physics.

Probably not many. Right? Why?

Of course it is easy to blame the laziness of the students, their lack in passion for science and for knowledge in general. But is it really the reason?

Students can change, if they are inspired. But how, and more importantly, when?

In the "industrialized" atmosphere in (some of, but not all of) the scientific researches conducted today, maybe it is just simply not possible for them, with the pressure of producing data and publishing papers.

For "training", they need time, time to sit down and go through papers and deep thinking for days and weeks. After being in science for many years, one thing I am sure about is, when one acquires comprehensive knowledge, she/he will remember it for the rest of their life. But if they acquire the knowledge in a compromised way, not articulated, not clearly capturing the idea, they will soon forget it. And for the rest of their life, the idea will stay obscure. In fact, for the things I learned to the extent that the ideas became clear conceptually in my mind, they stayed in my head and I can still remember well. But for the things that were not clear to me for which I did not go further to clarify the concept, they are still unclear today.

So, if PhD students do not have time to train themselves properly, the science community is not doing a good job producing "good" scientists. That wouldn't be good for the future of science, would it?

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