Importance of Stupidity in Science

The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research

“Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid. I wouldn’t know what to do without that feeling. I even think it’s supposed to be this way.”

The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.

“Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.”


The Journal of Cell Science: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research

MD/PhD/JD Combined

“Hello fellow pre-medical students. Let me introduce myself…I am currently a junior pre-medical student at Harvard University. Thus far I have maintained a stellar academic record of a 4.0 grade point average with a triple major in Quantum Mechanics, Biophysics, and Neuroanatomy. In addition, I have helped with the publication of several major articles in the advanced field of Neuroanatophysiopathology in collaboration with Harvard Medical School. I also have an outstanding MCAT score that I believe makes me a superior application. I received a 45T when I took the exam in May of this year.

“Therefore, here is my question. In today’s demanding medical market, I feel that a simple MD is inadequate for a fully-trained medical professional. I feel with the advances in research that are continually coming out, at least an MD/PhD degree should be obtained. However, I still feel this would be an inferior education to someone such as myself. I am adamant that a JD would fully complement the MD/PhD education so the fully-trained medical professional could be competitive in the field of medical law and in order to better protect his or her assets in case there ever arises any type of litigation.

“Consequently, I am looking for advice from similarly superior applications such as myself. Please, only people with a 4.0 GPA from a superior Ivy League institution and at least a 41 MCAT score. Advice from anyone else would be advice from an inferior applicant and therefore futile.

“So, superior applicants: What is the best way to obtain a combined MD/PhD/JD degree?

“Thank you. And please, no trolls, this is a serious question.”



Student Doctor Network: MD/PhD/JD Combined

Writing the Introduction to an Epidemiology Paper

This is some brief guidance from my advisor on how to write the introduction section of an epidemiology scientific paper. When addressing previous papers in the introduction, do so only briefly. Generally, save the thorough literature review for the discussion.

Paragraph 1

What is the public health or clinical importance of the topic? What is the primary problem that will be addressed? How many people will be affected? What level of impact does this problem have? Statistics from the World Health Organization are often cited here.

Paragraph 2

What is currently known about the problem?

For example, what has been published on health related quality of life (HRQOL) in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients?

Briefly describe a variety of primary literature papers on the topic. State the lacking knowledge that will be addressed by the rest of the paper.

There is much known about HRQOL in T2DM in populations of White Americans, but there have been no studies to date describing HRQOL in Pacific Islanders diagnosed with T2DM.

Address challenges unique to this study.

Are there variations in HRQOL perceptions among different cultures?

Paragraph 3

Clearly and concisely state the primary aim of this study.

For example, in the current analysis we will study the impact of T2DM on HRQOL in a population of Pacific Islanders living in Oahu, Hawaii.

Say something specific about the population being studied.

The Pacific Islander Cohort of Hawaiians is a longitudinal, population-based cohort that has been ongoing since 1999, with followup every 4 years.

Explain why this study is novel. Tell what you are going to show.

 Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a validated clinical measure of T2DM severity (citation here), and the SF-36 is a validated health questionnaire measuring HRQOL (citation here). To the extent of our knowledge, this is the first study to study a potential quantitative association between HbA1c and the SF-36 in a population-based cohort of Pacific Islanders.

Mendeley Reference Management

Mendeley is a convenient, free research resource that allows you to manage primary literature references. Mendeley’s Citation Plugin allows easy citations in Microsoft Word while drafting scientific papers from your library.

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