What makes a good scientist?

Do the youth in your life have the characteristics of becoming a good scientist?

What makes a good scientist? Do you know any youth who have the makings of becoming a good scientist? The Michigan State University Extension science and engineering team is dedicated to increasing science literacy across Michigan and provide programing to increase STEM awareness and involvement. STEM is the acronym that refers to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. One component of STEM awareness is understanding what a good scientist does rather than what they look like.

In 1957, the first “draw a scientist” test was developed by Margaret Mead. It wasn’t until the 1980s youth began to see themselves as scientists, although today the initial image most of us have of a scientist is an older, frizzy-haired man in a white coat. Regardless of the image you have of a scientist, what are the characteristic of a good scientist?

  • Curious. Scientists are curious about their world. They want to know why things happen and how things work.
  • Patient. Scientists are patient as they repeat experiments multiple times to verify results.
  • Courageous. Scientists work to discover answers often times for years and with numerous failures. They recognize that failed experiments provide answers as often as successful ones.
  • Detail-oriented. In science, answers are built upon observations and collected data. Close attention to details is important in the development of science theories. Detailed observations in one experiment could also lead to answers in another.
  • Creative. Contrary to popular opinion, scientists must be creative, able to think outside the box and envision things that cannot be seen.
  • Persistent. Scientists recognize their work may take decades, and that their approach may be wrong and their work could be proven false by future scientists.
  • Communicative. Scientists need good communication skills. They may need to work as part of a team, share information with the public or collaborate with colleagues around the world.
  • Open-minded and free of bias. Scientists need to suspend judgment so they can continue to observe and collect data while searching for the best possible solution. Even though they’re working with a hypothesis in mind, they must remember there are many more hypotheses.
  • Critical thinkers and problem-solvers. Scientists need to analyze information and make critical decisions to solve experimental problems or world problems.

While not every scientist has all these characteristics, these are the traits that help build good scientists. Think about the youth in your life. Do they have the characteristics of a good scientist?

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension Science and Engineering webpage. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. US-23 or visit our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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