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Seven year units in science: general lessons from the personal experience of working on adrenal cortex innervation and cortisol secretion
  • Bruce Charlton
Bruce Charlton
School of Psychology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, England

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It seems to me that the learning and practice of science naturally falls into approximately seven year units; and indeed the same could be said about ‘life’. (Note: My operational definition of ‘seven’ is ‘more than five but less than ten’.)  My academic life has certainly been consistent with this idea; and here I describe the first seven year unit of my work as an active scientist: this was the seven years I spent as a laboratory researcher focused primarily on the adrenal cortex. This unit was successful; in the sense that I solved, to my own satisfaction, the problem I was working-on. There may be some general interest and instruction to be derived from taking this specific example as a generalisable account of the different phases and aspects of an arc of science – how a line of research may be initiated, developed and brought to a conclusion. Furthermore, it is suggested that other scientists might (if it comes naturally to them) consider changing their focus and developing new interests every seven years or so.