"Success is not about the science but about creating the environment in which science can flourish," Professor Tim Noakes told a gathering of Y- and P-rated researchers at a networking function.
Each of the books in the briefcase he brought along illustrated points from his short motivational talk: the good, the bad and the ugly, scientifically speaking.
Noakes (human biology) and Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan (zoology) were guest speakers at the event, hosted by the research office to advise young researchers about developing their careers.
P- and Y-rated scholars belong to the National Research Foundation categories that recognise emerging talents among the academic community's young cadre of PhDs, usually under the age of 35.
The President's Awardees (P-rated) are those protÃ©gÃ©s who have what it takes to become future leaders in their fields. Y-rated researchers are knocking on the door; they have the potential to establish their credentials within five years of NRF evaluation.
Tracing her history through apartheid education and cultural gender stereotypes to the present, Chinsamy-Turan said her father didn't encourage her to succumb to the ordinary or the average, urging her to study - and to study further.
Bolstered by the self-confidence her family instilled, she never settled for local journals if there was a chance of making the pages of international publications.
"If Nature doesn't accept your paper, try Science," she advised. "Don't be shy to aim high".
Chinsamy-Turan advised the up-and-coming group to present their research at international conferences and to ensure that their presentation is "really great and that it will be remembered". It is vitally important to "be visible" in the scientific community.
"And don't be afraid of challenging the paradoxes out there," she tipped.
Sifting through his experiences, Noakes presented 10 nuggets of wisdom for researchers:
He urged the assembly to take up heart surgeon Chris Barnard's torch.
"We desperately need more of these pioneers. Be the best scientist you can be."
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