June 2, 2009

Keep Your Eyes Pointed Towards The Future

Young scientists eager to chart the path to success in their chosen field might do well to listen to an expert in the area "“ Bert O'Malley, M.D., National Medical of Science winner and chair of Baylor College of Medicine's molecular and cellular biology department.

He offered that advice gratis recently during the keynote address at the College's James K. Alexander Research Symposium that spotlights medical student research.

O'Malley was quick to note that he was not born to the laboratory. He met his first scientist in medical school and only an elective course in his senior year put him on the course that guided his professional life. He laid out five points that could serve as a guide those seeking a life in biomedical science:

  • Sufficient intelligence
  • Commitment to industry and hard work
  • Good judgment
  • Good code of personal ethics
  • Vigilance for opportunities
  • Intelligence is important, but he warned that you cannot "IQ" your way to success. Similarly, a person could live without a personal code of ethics, but only at the cost of his or her conscience. Industry and hard work are crucial as are good judgment and a constant eye out for opportunities.

For example, he said, the discoverer of Post-Itâ“ž¢ notes happened to be working next to a researcher who was trying to develop a glue, but his version of it did not stick well enough. The Post-Itâ“ž¢ discoverer saw that "failure" as an opportunity.

The research symposium, carried out under the direction of Holly H. Birdsall, M.D., Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery and immunology, and assistant dean for student research education at BCM, honors the late Dr. James K. Alexander, a professor of medicine "“ cardiology at BCM for more than five decades. Alexander died March 31, 2009, just a few days after the ninth annual symposium named for took place at BCM.

Alexander was a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Medical School. He played a major role in the development of BCM as a leader in the treatment and research of diseases of the heart.


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