Updated: November 24, 2019 11:23:47 am
A young scholar’s tweet about the importance of coping with failure in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is going viral, and is receiving praise from many including Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Sarafina Nance, a PhD student in astrophysics and a National Science Foundation (NSF) fellow in the University of California in Berkley, wrote about how she once scored zero in a quantum physics exam. The result, she said, forced her to consider quitting physics. But she revealed that sticking with the subject despite the failure had paid rich dividends.
“4 years ago I got a 0 on a quantum physics exam. i met with my professor fearing i needed to change my major & quit physics. today, i’m in a top tier astrophysics Ph.D program & published 2 papers,” Nance, a 26-year-old astrophysicist who says she researches supernovae, wrote.
“STEM is hard for everyone—grades don’t mean you’re not good enough to do it,” she wrote.
4 years ago I got a 0 on a quantum physics exam. i met with my professor fearing i needed to change my major & quit physics. today, i’m in a top tier astrophysics Ph.D program & published 2 papers.
STEM is hard for everyone—grades don’t mean you’re not good enough to do it.
— Sarafina Nance (@starstrickenSF) November 20, 2019
The tweet got many researchers and scholars to share instances of the setbacks and challenges they had faced, and how they overcame them. As the thread and tweets went viral, Google CEO Sundar Pichai retweeted it, saying that it was “inspiring”.
Well said and so inspiring! https://t.co/qHBwdv3fmS
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) November 21, 2019
Here are some of the other interesting and inspiring stories that people shared:
Failed physics and chemistry at school, took geology instead. 30 years later got my bachelor’s degree doing Earth sci and ended up as a uni lecturer
— Linda Fowler (@lindamary) November 22, 2019
Got a C in my Psych of Women class; female prof said I was “the kind of person who gives psychology a bad name” for questioning Freud. Went on to get MA, top of class. Postgrad in feminist therapy. At 60, have helped 1000s in Rape crisis, abortion counseling, private practice.
— Janet Meyer (@BldrJanet) November 22, 2019
As an undergrad I got a C+ in plant ecology. I was devastated because that was my major. I talked to the prof who encouraged me to continue. Got my PhD and have been a plant ecology prof for 20 years. STEM is hard, grades don’t matter as much as determination.
— george vourlitis (@GeorgeVourlitis) November 21, 2019
Got kicked out of a Ph.D program in Physics for failing the quals. Finished a master instead and tried again. It wasn’t easier the second time, had to learn English, move to another Country, took me 8 years but finally tomorrow I have my defense. Yeah, hard
— Victor Pinto (@vpintoa) November 21, 2019
Never got a top grade in first 2 years of engineering. Failed design twice. Profs were semi helpful; friends were the decisive support.
Aced my graduation thesis, went to @ESA, now project manager for space systems, co-filed a patent. Only you know what you really can do.
— Max Lange (@Rocketist) November 21, 2019
Got a 2.4 GPA my first semester in college. Thought maybe I wasn’t cut out for engineering. Today I’ve landing two spacecraft on Mars, and designing one for the moon.
STEM is hard for everyone. Grades ultimately aren’t what matters. Curiosity and persistence matter.
— Ben Cichy (@bencichy) November 22, 2019
I did poorly in HS and was put in rudimentary math classes. In college, I nearly failed several courses including quantum and didn’t feel like I belonged. I bombed the physics GRE. Twice. It nearly broke me. I became a physics professor at age 24 and now teach 7 different courses https://t.co/ykQipVPccW
— Alex Spahn (@spahn711) November 22, 2019
My family couldn’t afford SAT prep, I didn’t do so well the first time. I kept at it. I became the first in my family to go to college. I decided to triple major. My advisor said “no.” I triple majored in 4 years. I now teach compsci to students who can’t afford to go to college. https://t.co/gEvn7v7ZZg
— Melody Serra (@MelRSerra) November 22, 2019
I failed my second year Astronomy course in my undergrad…. It was devastating as I had moved halfway around the world to study astronomy & spent so much $. Don’t let marks define you! I persevered and got HBSc, MSc and PhD in Astronomy. Find a support system and be persistent! https://t.co/Rb2kFrvhRf
— Dr. Parshati Patel (@ParshatiPatel) November 22, 2019
Aged 9, I was told I wasn’t very academic.
Aged 25, I have:
💪 A PhD in Mars science 🚀
💪 A postdoc position
💪 9 peer-reviewed scientific publications
💪 Helped to choose a landing site for the @ESA_ExoMars rover mission.
As my mum says: don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. https://t.co/6owlLgkgGn
— Frances Butcher (@fegbutcher) November 21, 2019
The thread is continuing to get responses from people about the challenges they’ve faced in their academic career.
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