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Virtual 2021 Kopchick Symposium addresses failure and perseverance

November 15, 2021
Tracey Barnett/MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School

Virtual 2021 Kopchick Symposium addresses failure and perseverance

For graduate students, experiencing failure in the lab or on an exam may feel like a major blow to their entire research career at the time, but in hindsight, these obstacles are just bumps in the road that many have faced on their way to becoming successful scientists.

To show young researchers how to turn failures into opportunities, the Kopchick Fellows, recipients of the Dr. John J. and Charlene Kopchick Fellowships, organized the 2021 Dr. John J. Kopchick Research Symposium:  Failure and Perseverance in Science, which was held on November 8. The fellows picked this topic to normalize failure as just a part of science and to show budding scientists they are not alone in experiencing failures and that you can move forward and defeat these obstacles.

More than 130 participants from across the Texas Medical Center attended the virtual event. Some of the highlights of the symposium were GSBS faculty and alumni presentations that included stories of how the failures they encountered were chances to grow as scientists; panel discussions with students and faculty covering how to grieve a failure and move forward; and a keynote presentation by Maria A. Croyle, RPh, PhD, Glaxo Wellcome Endowed Professor of Pharmaceutics, The University of Texas at Austin. (See full list of presenters here.)

Here are some tips for persevering over failures that were shared by presenters and panelists:

  • Treat failure as information and not damage to your ego.
  • To deal with failure/fear of failure, find a mechanism that is coherent with your ethos or belief system.
  • Don't take failure personally! Your failures don't mean you aren't a good person.
  • It’s OK to grieve a failure, but afterwards reassess and learn from it.
  • Overcome hard times with a network of people who support you. It’s also helpful to have a scientific and non-scientific support system to help you get through difficulties.
  • Ask yourself if this failure will matter in a week; in a month; in a year? This will help you see that in the future, this is not as big as it feels at the time.

Click here to see promotional video created by the Kopchick Fellows for the symposium as well as interview segments with Dr. John and Charlene Kopchick and each spoke about how these concepts have impacted their science and careers; and their hopes for the legacy of the Kopchick Symposium.

In June of 2017, John J. Kopchick, Ph.D., and his wife, Charlene, presented the Graduate School with a transformative $10.5 million gift to establish student fellowships, research awards, and the Kopchick Symposiums to accelerate the school’s continued success in educating medical and research trailblazers.

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