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The Age of Discovery (How old are people when they do their best scientific research?)

  23-Dec-2014  |   Post By: Ph.D.online

Science is an extremely competitive field, getting research funding requires an excellent track record and researchers judge themselves against their peers. I wrote a blog post about the number of publications scientists are 'supposed' to have per year in order to be competitive on fellowships and grant applications a few years ago. I am surprised at the number of people that find that post by searching for 'How many research papers should I have?' . It's a worry or thought most researchers have throughout their careers.

There is of course no magic number and there's a need for a track record of quality publications vs a quantity of publications. The ultimate accolade for a scientist is being awarded a Nobel Prize and I came across an interesting infographic about the age of Nobel Prize winners (when they completed their prize winning work) and also how that relates to the age at which they wrote their PhD dissertation. I have included it at the bottom of this post. Before 1905 2/3rds of Nobel Prize winners completed their 'winning' work before the age of 40. Post 1905 the average age is 48. I am surprised that the average dissertation age is 33. I thought it would be more in the mid-20s.

Of course the age of someone when they make a world changing discovery is also influenced by their peers, mentors and often by the technology and equipment available at the time.

If you want to hear from Nobel Prize winners about their career paths and hear their advice for current researchers. I've just discovered this resource of videos of Nobel Prize winners inspiring others through their stories. I'm looking forward to watching quite a few of these. This video is about choosing a research project but there are also videos on dealing with surprises and setbacks during your research career.

The infographic about Nobel Prize winners is below. I always try and remember when reading lists and summaries though, especially when it comes to research, that all projects and research pathways are unique and no two people take the same path.

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