Julius Axelrod was quite an atypical scientist. I knew little about him (I had vaguely heard about him while reading some review about neurotransmission), but recently read a nice little biography of Axelrod in Molecular interventions (April 2007), and found his story quite inspiring.
But this post isn't really about his life story. There was one little section in that biography that I really liked. It was his philosophy on research. I read each one of them, and found myself nodding in agreement with most of them. So much so that I made a photocopy of them and stuck them on my poster board. This is what he said:
Ask simple questions (but look beyond the obvious)
Do something new, but not too new (work just right or left of mainstream questions).
Talk to people and read, then talk more and read more.
Science is 99% discouragement. Stay focused.
Do one good experiment a day.
Find and exploit your own scientific style.
Skimming the cream is a good thin. But do enough science to know that the cream is real.
Don't sweat the details. focus on your hypothesis and don't get swayed by complexity.
Publish to clarify your thinking and your hypothesis. Nothing more.
Those are some quality words of wisdom.