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Persistence, Networking, and an Important Problem

In a session devoted to the future of biomedical research at the Partnering for Cures meeting in New York City this week, panelists expressed optimism about the resourcefulness of young investigators they've interacted with, and shared advice gleaned from their own experiences. Despite funding insecurities, MIT's Sebastian Seung said he believes that up-and-coming scientists are "going to do a tremendous job if we can give them the support they need." Columbia University's Brent Stockwell said that "upcoming scientists have to be open-minded. … They have to develop a very deep skill set for the thing they're most interested in, but also learn how to network most effectively with other scientists who have skills outside of their own, so they can work more as a team to solve a problem." The New York Stem Cell Foundation's Valentina Fossati added that, in addition to their colleagues in other scientific disciplines, young investigators ought to be open to the public.

Padmanee Sharma of MD Anderson Cancer Center spoke of the importance of diverse mentors and persistence. "Your mentors don’t have to be within your own institution, not even within your own state. I believe that if you're going to get the best and the brightest to help you to make sure you can have creative and innovative ideas going forward and can become funded, you get everyone who is out there doing whatever you're working on, and network in different fields," Sharma said. She added that, because "nobody's going to win every grant the first time they put it in," persistence is key to success in science. "You're going to have to apply to multiple different organizations," she said. "I was very lucky to be funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation as a young investigator. These kinds of things helped me to then build a career."

Overall, the University of Virginia's Timothy Bullock said that when it comes to succeeding in science, "the most important thing is pick an important problem and something you're really passionate about. Because at the end of the day, you're going to spend so much time thinking about this [and] working on it — it should be something that drives and excites you."

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