A young researcher told me that he felt outside society for a number of years. He got his BSc and MSc, and then spent a lot of time and effort trying to find a position which would enable him to continue his studies, get a full PhD, then a post-doctorate course, and then a lucrative job at a prestigious lab where he could continue his work. Nice job if you can get it or a nice life plan in this case. I have no doubt that he is a talented scientist with very clear aims. I am also familiar with the feeling of being “outside”. You have always been a very diligent student with very good grades. Why isn’t anybody running after you with great offers? True, it is easier to find a job with a private company than with a respected university or academic institution. Large private companies usually have more money and can hire whoever they wish. The lure of a good position, a normal salary, the perspective of starting a family is strong. Many young specialists make this choice; there is nothing bad about it. The feelings, the frustration really come from inside you. We are not outside society, in fact we are inside. True, when we finish at the top of our class, we expect to be noticed, and maybe even to be offered something. But life is never fair. Things are not handed down and out as a matter of course. We have to search, run after our dreams, and try, try, try again. The young man told me he applied to many institutions but was not accepted, and he so much wanted to continue his research. At last, when he was ready to take up any offer from a private firm or even sign up for an engineering job, he was accepted into a post-doctorate position. There is not much money in it and the course may be tough, the hours long, the rewards few and far between. Yet his dedication to science and research makes him happy. Now he only frets about not getting paid enough to get married, buy a house and a car, have children and so on. All the usual normal dreams which are not restricted to young scientists. They are common for any young people anywhere, regardless of whether they have a higher education or stop at school level.

If you ask any professional, you will learn that the competition is strong in any area of human activity. Take a look at the unemployment figures in any country. Those anonymous per cents include researchers too. Read any celebrity’s biography. There is hardly an actor who did not begin as a waiter or something more exotic, like coffin maker or carpenter. Later on they became Sean O’Connery and Harrison Ford. It must have taken a lot of work, perseverance and hope. Albert Einstein was excluded from a number of schools for being too slow. His parents never gave up on him and kept trying to find a school and a teacher who would be interested in this strange young man, until he was fortunate enough to be accepted into a physics course at a university. I believe he simply grew up enough for his interests to become obvious. Before that, since all the other subjects were boring for him, he was automatically viewed as a lazy or an incompetent pupil.

Are you a genius? Nobody knows. We have no idea how many real and imagined Einsteins may be wandering the space-time continuum, unrecognized by society. Probably they just gave up too soon. I teach all my students the same simple maxim: unless they tell me that they wish to get an excellent mark in the subject, I may never realize that. Yes, telling your understanding teacher about your aspirations may be the first step to success. If your teacher is more of Severus Snape than Albus Dumbledore variety, search elsewhere. Talk to your parents and/or friends. Look for alternative courses on the web. Read some books on your subject. The most difficult lesson is always this: NOBODY will do what needs to be done for you unless you take matters into your own hands. Even a brilliant teacher can only teach. You are the one who has to learn.



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