- Publishing papers are very important to your graduate career in science. Papers basically define you as a scientist.
- I was terrified about writing my first paper so I used hip-hop to psych me up to overcome my writing anxiety.
- Hip-hop would psych me up and it gave me the encouragement to write. When I was scared to write, hip-hop gave me the push to keep going.
- I successfully completed my first paper (after about a year’s worth of writing) only to have it get rejected from peer-reviewed journals 2 times!
- It eventually got published!
- After my first paper was accepted I started working on another paper to academically challenge myself and because I needed more practice writing. This paper was also published!
- I believe we all need confidence-boosters when we have LD or are ADHD. Hip-hop may not work for you, but find out what does work and use it to OWN your abilities!
- Thug life! Ha!
For the non-science geeks out there, when I refer to a ‘paper,’ I mean a published scientific article in a peer-reviewed journal. Papers are very important in your scientific career. Papers allow you, as a scientist, to tell the world about your research! Basically, all of your data doesn’t matter if it isn’t published. There are ways to present your data that hasn’t been published, but a published paper validates your experiments, your ideas and the quality of your work. Papers tell the scientific community that you matter; that you did something worth reading. Hopefully those papers will make a difference; they probably won’t make a “I’m-going-to-change-the-world” difference but a more realistic, “she-observed-that-so-I’m-going-to-do-this” difference is probable! Although not all papers are good, well written, use good science or ask a relevant question, they provide the community a chance to critique your peers’ work (and you as a scientist). For good or bad, publishing papers cause us to be judged constantly by our peers. The more people who like your paper and the better the journal is that publishes your work; the more the paper is worth. If data are the currency of science; papers are the bank.
Hip my hop
Every graduate student in my school strives to publish. If you don’t publish, you don’t graduate. This terrified me. My reading disorder and my fear of scientific writing scared me so much that in my first two years of school I thought I’d never get a paper out! I fell into the same traps that snagged me in the past: “I’m stupid,” “How could I possibly write something good enough for an expert to like?,” “I’ll be in school FOREVER!” Fortunately, these happiness-glitches did not last very long. I learned to compensate by continually telling myself that I could do it: “I can write!”, “These experiments were awesome! Share ‘em!”, “Stop whining!” and the old classic profanity –laced encouragement: “[swear word] DO IT. You can [swear word] do this [swear words]. Rock it!” I got to the point where I had to be very cocky and egotistical about my abilities to compensate for all the negative thoughts in my head. This led to an internal debate between polar-opposites! Every time I had some doubt, I told myself, “Collin, you’re awesome! You got this!” This started an obnoxious cycle: a battle between the depressed-doubtful little boy in my head and the Superman that I wanted to be. The doubtful little boy was Doomsday to my Superman! I came after him with all I had! My secret weapon was hip-hop.
I’d listen to hip-hop, focusing on songs that had 1 of two common themes: overcoming adversity and ‘making it’ or “I’m better than you.” If Jay Z, 50 cent, Jeezy, Biggie (RIP) and Tupac (RIP) can go from rhyming on the corner to wearing mink coats; I could write a paper. These rags to riches stories have always helped inspire me to make something of myself. I know comparing their stories to my own privileged-upper-middle-class upbringing may seem silly but they overcame tremendous obstacles to become the people they strived to be. I’m striving to be a scientist! If being a scientist means that I need to write… then I am going to WRITE!
My first paper!
I was extremely nervous when I starting writing my first paper about my experiments. I
loved what I did and I wanted to share it with the world but I didn’t know how to start. So, I got help. I got advice from a post doc that I was co-writing the paper with. I also asked him if I could take the first crack at writing the paper so I could get the practice I needed. He was also very helpful because he had already written a bunch of papers so he knew how to write very well. So, I got his advice and I started to write. This was a really slow process! When I questioned myself, I would listened to this hip-hop to get my blood pumping.
I’d write a little, doubt myself, listen to Thugz Mansion by Tupac… I’d get excited and start writing again. I’d get stuck on another paragraph, I’d listen to Soul Survivor by Young Jeezy… then I’d attack the page. Repeat. I’d also write drafts and send it to the post doc and/or my boss. They’d mark it up a lot and send it back! As an ego boost I’d have to listen to my favorite rap songs to process all the corrections. Eventually, fewer and fewer red marks were on each page! This cycle continued for MONTHS until I finished my first paper! We submitted this paper 3 times before it was finally published! Getting rejected from the first 2 journals sucked, but we hung in there, made changes to the paper and finally got it published! This may be one of the first immunology papers ever written with the exclusive help of Hip-hop.
After my first paper was published I decided to write a review article! A review article in science is basically a paper that reviews the literature of a current topic. A goal of mine for the past 5 years has been to write a review! I wrote it on my goal-sheet (EVERYONE should have one!) in 2006 when I first came to school. Writing a review article was so important to me because of the challenge! I wasn’t going to let those difficulties get in my way! The first draft I gave to my boss resulted in her saying this, “you missed the point, try again.” The second draft, “Don’t be so negative about other studies! Be nicer! Give it another shot” So, I kept rewriting my paper and making minor/major changes. I worked on this paper for about year before it was published! This paper is my greatest accomplishment in graduate school! Stick to your goals and work really hard! You can overcome anything!
My advice to other students and adults is this: find something, ANYTHING, that gives you the confidence to be the best person or student you can be. How confident was Tupac when he had Thug Life tattooed on his chest?! VERY CONFIDENT is the answer! He didn’t care what you or I thought, he knew who he was and what he wanted to be. I wish we all could have that confidence at some point in our life! Most of us won’t ever be as cocky as Tupac, nor should we, but we can take a page from his manual to help us become okay with our abilities! Being comfortable in your own skin is imperative to overcoming your differences.
The low self-esteem that is associated with LD and ADHD needs to be fought with whatever ammunition you have available. For me, that ammunition was and continues to be hip-hop. Hip-hop may not work for you, but you should use whatever makes you excited! Find something that makes you OWN your LD or ADHD! Find something that makes you confident enough to yell at the top of your lungs, “I don’t care if I’m dyslexic, I’m going to write this book even if it takes me a year!” or “Who cares if I’m ADHD?! I’m going to listen to this entire lecture… even if I have to do it in 5 minute intervals!” or “I have a learning disorder! So what if it takes me longer to learn new things! That just means I need to spend more time on it! When I learn it, I will know it inside and out! I can do it!”