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Everybody Has To Start Somewhere

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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One thing that stood out for us during our interview with Dave Sulzer is when he told us he got bad grades for most of his time in high school. This, of course, seemed bizarre and shocking to us. How could this possibly have been? For crying out loud, the man is a NEUROSCIENTIST!

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But it was true. And it’s true for lots of folks. We recently had a struggling high school student write in to ask Dave how he managed to turn things around in school. And Dave’s answer was so great that we wanted to highlight it here in its own post:

Everybody Has To Start Somewhere-dave_teenager_300.jpg
When Dave got serious, he got really, really serious.

“Please don’t use me as an inspiration, I’m awful! I got into college because Michigan State, my alma mater, told me they would accept me if I got straight As on my last semester. So then I studied hard at that point, and they kept their word. I’m not sure they do that kind of thing anymore.

“Then I started to work harder in college when I decided I was interested in science and would like to go to graduate school, and you do need outstanding grades for that, and often some experience. Also, I saw some of my friends were getting very good grades, and I became a bit jealous and wanted to show that I could do it too, if I wanted to!

“Finally, my advice in college is that if you are interested in science is to volunteer to work in a science lab. Often if you do a good job and are energetic, careful, and patient it can turn into a real job and help you enter into that line of work. I worked in a Chinese cabbage breeding lab, which I admit sounds pretty odd in retrospect, but I learned about genetics and something about crop farming. It did help my introduction to botany and plant breeding, which was sort of my foundation in scientific work.”