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Ren Li

As researchers, if we want to make new discoveries, sometimes that means taking a leap in the dark — a leap we might not take if we’re too afraid to fail. During my Ph.D., I was very lucky to have an advisor who taught me how to approach research challenges in a positive and resilient mindset. Michele offered opportunities that I often felt were beyond me from early in my Ph.D. She encouraged me to stretch my limits, to try new and risky ideas, and not to take ‘no’ for an answer easily. When I was disappointed in “non-significant” results from an experiment, Michele was always there to cheer me on and tell me failed experiments were the driving forces of scientific discovery. She often says “we are just gonna be buddha about the results,” even though she is 100% Jewish! Her encouragement and humor help me to move on with a touch more grace. I’m so grateful that Michele taught me how to be persistent and resilient in the face of discouragement. These are skills I now rely on as an early-career academic. I hope that, when I have my own Ph.D. students, I’ll be able to share that failure is normal and expected in science, and if they sigh at their failed experiments, I will say to them "we are just gonna be buddha about this."

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