No Way Out – the Infinite Hypothesis Loop

Erin Loury

Erin Loury

by Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

It’s not unusual to feel “locked-in” at times during graduate school (as in, “What is this path I’ve committed myself to  and where does it end?!”).  But, according to the dry wit of one British ecologist, this is a natural product of the scientific method itself…

While doing a bit of class reading (can you tell midterms are around the corner?) from the book Experiments in Ecology by AJ Underwood (1997) I came across this little gem of a quote.  Underwood stresses that the acceptance or a rejection of a hypothesis at the end of an experiment is hardly the end (as he subtly suggests in his figure: DON’T END HERE).  More work remains to either create a new hypothesis or develop tests to refine the existing one.  He concludes, “Thus, in Figure 2.1 there is no way out of the procedure once you have started it, until you die or change research fields.”

the endless hyptohesis loop
Click to see larger image: that endless hypothesis loop

That’s right. Until you die.  Or change research fields… For some, the never ending flow of questions is the beauty of the system, or exactly the point.  As Underwood continues, “This is comforting in terms of eventual longevity of employment”  (assuming, of course, one can obtain funding  to continue the process, but that’s another matter…).

For others, this smacks strongly of commitment, and has them edging towards the door.  Grad school is the ultimate test-drive of a scientist’s life.  Can you you see yourself pursuing this continuous loop and loving it?  Do you have that insatiable curiosity to understand how the world works, to keep asking questions, to think of possible answers and find creative ways to test them? (and test them and test them and test them?) If so, congratulations, and welcome to the world of research!

And if not?  Don’t fret – the life of a scientist these days is often more than just pure research, and research is just one of many avenues to pursue on the back of a science degree.  Let me draw your attention to our great and growing collection of alumni career interviews, where actual factual graduates of Moss Landing Marine Labs graciously share where their science careers have lead.   Explore, get ideas, and discover what people actually do with degrees in marine science!

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1 Response to No Way Out – the Infinite Hypothesis Loop

  1. sunil kumar says:

    so nice


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