UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
What is a scientist?
Answer 1:

A scientist is someone who makes conclusions about the universe using the scientific method.

The scientific method is a general “recipe” for finding the answer to a question and making sure you don’t fool yourself into finding the wrong answer.

The first and most important part of the scientific method it to ask a question. Usually the question is of the form, “why does this happen this way” or “what will happen if I do this.” Luckily, there are many other scientists that may have thought the same question and will have already drawn conclusions based on their experiments. You look at what other scientists have found and decide whether their experiments answer your question, and if not, you use their results to form a hypothesis.

A hypothesis is an explanation for why something happens a certain way without much information. The goal is to find out whether the hypothesis was right or wrong based on experimental data and draw a conclusion. You usually only form a hypothesis if your question hasn’t been answered that well by other scientists.

Your hypothesis is essentially what you think the answer to your question will be. Then you plan an experiment that tests your hypothesis, and use the information you collect from the experiment to draw a conclusion. The key part of planning that experiment is to have “experimental” groups and “control” groups. You do the experiment the same exact way for the two groups, except you change the one thing you’re interesting in for the experimental group.

For instance, if your hypothesis is that plants will grow better with more sunlight, you add more sunlight to the experimental group. From the data you get an answer to your question or at least a better understanding of the question you asked in the first place. Once you’re done, you let the scientific community know what your experiment and conclusions are which adds to the total knowledge of the community.

So what makes someone a scientist is that they follow the steps outlined in the scientific method to get answers to questions. If someone draws a conclusion without following the steps, they cannot be a scientist. For instance, if someone said sunlight makes plants grow better based on the fact that all of their plants get sunlight and all of them grow well, this would not be a scientist. There would be no way to know whether it’s the sunlight, the water, or some other factor that makes the plants grow well.

Only when experiments are conducted with experimental and control groups can a question truly be answered. Most scientists have advanced educational degrees such as PhDs or masters degrees, though it is not always a requirement. The typical track to becoming a scientist is to get an undergraduate degree, and then to get a graduate degree in a science or engineering field.


Answer 2:

A scientist is somebody who uses the scientific method. The scientific method is a means of learning about reality using the following rules:

1. You must assume that the universe is real, predictable, and observable.
2. Any observation that you make is an observation of reality. Data must always trump theories.
3. No theory or hypothesis that you make to explain your observations is useful unless said theory or hypothesis makes predictions that you can test with more observations (and, thus, potentially prove it to be false).
4. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation (that uses the fewest assumptions) is most likely to be the best.

Following these rules will lead you to adopt a certain procedure, or steps to learn about reality. These steps form a circle, so there is no beginning and no end, but they work something like this:

-Observe something
-Concoct an explanation for why you observed it
-Think about what this explanation would mean if it were true and what else should be true if your explanation is correct (this is your prediction)
-Test your prediction
-If your explanation fails the test, make a new explanation. If the explanation passes the test, then think of what other explanations would have also passed your test, and invent a new test to determine which of these is correct.

Note that each test consists of making observations, which is why this is a cyclical procedure, as each new observation will inspire new explanations.



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use