Prof. Midlam-Mohler on research:
My nearly 15 years in a successful, intensive research environment have led to what I feel is a mature view of the academic research enterprise. To borrow and adapt something from Thomas Edison, I would say “Genius research is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” In other words, great researchers certainly need to have those “1%” transformative ideas – but by definition those ideas only come knocking every so often. The rest of the time, research is about taking your ideas that fall short of transformative and making them happen – these are the “99%” ideas that bring about the perspiration. This brings to mind Edison’s lesser known quote, “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.” Executing these ideas is what makes one ready to capitalize when the “1%” opportunity comes.
Being successful in research is about ideas, but also leadership. My model for my lab is to think of my research operation as a small, high-tech business. Project level objectives are usually easy to define as they are often spelled out in the statement of work of the funded proposal. Program level objectives are often not well-known and are actually the key to “winning the war” so to speak versus “winning the battle.” Program level objectives are what foster things like: cross-project collaboration; peer-to-peer learning; effective knowledge retention with a revolving base of students; and the recognition that my research team is working towards a common goal despite working on a portfolio of different projects.