I think most peope in science would agree that as one’s career progresses, there’s less and less time to focus on actual scientific works. There can be various reasons, but in my case, recently, it’s mainly due to submitting research proposals for fundings and applying jobs in universities and research centres. Also, if there are too many ongoing collaborations, it’s difficult to focus. Hostely, in the last year, I felt not very satisfied working as a scientist becuase most of the jobs that I did or had to do were far from fullfilling my goals as a scientist. I always want to keep my scientific curiosity and have the eyes of childern — This makes the world a way more interesting and full of surprises. Sometimes having publications in prestiguous journals can be attractive, but I feel that it does not really satisfy me intrinsically. What I want is to learn new things about nature out of pure curiosity and explore pieces of findings that are new or not yet threaded to the knowledge of humanity.
Thus, from this year, or nowadays in general, I have a rule to keep at least one scientific project that keeps me alive — a topic that is almost impossible to resist thinking about. I think it doesn’t really matter whether it’s already studied by someone or not. As long as it is new to me and as long as I can learn in my own way, I believe this can inspire me in various ways and can turn into something new that is unknown to anybody. In my case, one topic that I have always been curious is the microscopic wave function of electrons; something like in between chemistry and physics. How electron’s are distributed between ions, how they form bonds, and how they move? In chemistry, we learn various “rules”, but in physics, we learn “laws”. I think my interest is what links the rules and laws. Now, emerging rules in condensed matter physics are all related to the geometry of electronic states — a.k.a Berry phase stuffs. I always wonder how the chemistry of solids and molecules are related to the Berry phase formalisms and transport effects.
I think so far in this year, I have been quite successful, not in the sense that I wrote papers or achieve something but in the sense that I was genuinely happy by keeping my curiosity. Sometimes I have a problem that I keep thinking about my scientific ideas and tend to postponing the works that I have to do. Well, at the end, I guess a happy mindset and improved mood would help to go through all the parts that grown-ups have to do in science… Please don’t argue with me that these are important. Important things are not necessarily interesting. Usually it’s the oppostite.