How To Be A Successful Early Career Researcher

Daniel Sheridan, BSc. MSc. PhD candidate | 10 min read
Daniel Sheridan, BSc. MSc. PhD candidate | 10 min read


A STEM researcher’s early career is crucial to their overall success. However, the prospect of full-time research can be daunting, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the path in front of you.

It’s important to remember that every successful researcher was once exactly where you are now— just starting out and not sure where to begin. In this webinar, we hear from Nikolai Slavov, Associate Professor at Northeastern University College of Engineering, about how to excel in the early years of being a researcher. Although no two paths are the same, there are steps you can take to make your journey a little easier. 

Let’s jump right in - 

Key Takeaways

The early career phase is the most challenging part of breaking into research. Dr. Slavov recommends focusing on strategy, communication, creativity and mentorship to have a successful STEM research career. 

Dr. Slavov advises you to choose a direction, communicate your findings, and secure funding for your research. Visibility and mentorship are important factors in achieving success. Let’s explore Dr. Slavov’s recommendations.

Choosing a direction and strategy

You must decide which direction to take when embarking on a research career.

Choosing a direction or niche is an underappreciated aspect of being an early career researcher. You should start practicing early, researching career paths, and finding a subject matter that is strategically important to you. 

Passion and a desire to engage with your research topic are the most critical elements in building a long and illustrious career, so pick your topic carefully.

  • Communicate your results

Communication is vital in early career research. 

In your early career, you must learn how to structure information, write an objective research summary, and communicate your results clearly. 

While writing a research article, the emphasis frequently lies on the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of your research. However, you should lead papers with the ‘Why.’ Explain why your findings have happened, focus on what the readers need to know, and then move on to the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of your research topic. Think hard about the structure of your research papers and seek additional writing resources to support adopting an honest, accurate, and conceptual writing style. 

Creativity is an advantage in early career research. Be curious about your research topic, and translate this curiosity into your communications. 

Securing resources and funding

Securing resources and funding is arguably the most important part of early career research. Ultimately, you will need funding to purchase equipment, fund research, and conduct high-quality experiments. When securing resources and funding, it’s important to exercise these skills early while still acknowledging limitations.

  • A good proposal will start with a good question. You must have a strong premise and have identified a topic worth researching. 

    From this, you will need to write in a compelling way to show that you are the right person to undertake this project and that you have a feasible approach/strategy. 

    Start the text with your research question, or the ‘why,’ and then move on to your approach and results. 

    It’s important to remember that the proposal's success is dictated by more than the quality of the proposal. It is also dependent on the experience and track record of the investigator. 

  • Promoting research 

  • Check out this video for some tips on promoting your research including engaging on social media!


All these methods of sharing your research will diversify your communication methods and will increase visibility.

Mentorship & Self-Care

Focus some time on finding a good mentor. This means a mentor you admire, who will support you in your career. If you have recently completed a Ph.D. or are about to finish one, you will likely be familiar with mentors and understand how important they can be to your success. Mentors can help you channel your efforts towards a productive direction preventing burnout.

Hard work and passion are critical for success. Remember, it is also important to take breaks and rest. Breaks boost creativity. Balance your research with self-care. Be sure to spend time outdoors, engaging in hobbies, or anything that brings joy and fulfillment.

Missed the full webinar? Not a problem.

Catch up here to learn all about acing your early career as a researcher.




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