As scientists, our job is to try to understand how nature works. The things we study in nature—plants, animals, stars, parasites—are already there. We humbly hope to learn about them through observation and experimentation.
When you think about it this way, science isn’t really about any individual scientist. If any one of us weren’t here, well, someone else would probably figure it out.
This might sound a bit discouraging if your goal is to become a rich (ha) and famous scientist. But to me it clarifies the ways an individual scientist can make a difference: through contributing to the culture of science by creating a diverse, collaborative, and supportive environment that trains scientists who value integrity and generosity over success or acclaim.
My goal as a PI is to build this kind of environment. In turn, I expect the people in my lab to do what they can to contribute. This means working together, helping each other, maintaining high ethical standards, sharing (ideas, reagents, data, cookies) and giving back to the community.