The Power of Kindness in Science

By Valeria Cota posted 17 days ago


Walking through the skywalk here on campus at the University of Iowa can be a daunting task. Mostly because an awkwardly shaped cooler of vials keeps slipping out of my mitten-clad hands as I walk from building to building. However, the most formidable portion is the hallway advertising newly awarded R01s and Young Investigator Awards. Funded grants and recently published articles line the hallway, resulting in equal parts admiration and imposter syndrome. We often use publications and awards as a benchmark of success and proudly display them for all to see; however, there is another aspect of success that helps contribute to the overall goal of science: kindness.

The best example of kindness in science comes from the Kindness in Science initiative, where they break down kindness into four key areas: kindness to the environment, kindness to the community, kindness to other researchers, and kindness to yourself.

Kindness to the Environment

As toxicologists, we need to be more conscious of our laboratory-based environmental footprint. Sometimes the solution is as simple as swapping from single-use plastic to reusable glass vials and beakers whenever possible. We often study harmful chemicals and can forget about our contribution. The SOT Sustainable Chemicals through Contemporary Toxicology Specialty Section is a key example of how we can continue to conduct groundbreaking research while also being kind to the environment.

Kindness to the Community

Sharing our work in layperson terms is often just as important as the work itself. It is important to make nonscientists feel safe to ask questions and apply what they learned. SOT provides numerous resources and opportunities to build science communication skills including: 3MT awards, science communication trainings, and InTOXicating Science Talks.

Kindness to Other Researchers

Kindness in the literal sense includes sharing lab equipment and providing feedback on posters. However, kindness does not stop there. Providing younger and historically marginalized groups access to resources that have been unattainable in the past allows for unique perspectives. This also allows for science to progress at a faster rate. SOT has numerous mentorship activities that allow for the sharing of resources and helpful advice. Additionally, there are SOT Special Interest Groups that connect researchers and build diversity across the field of toxicology.

Kindness to Yourself

Academia at any career stage is difficult, and we gain nothing by putting ourselves down. While on the skywalk, I try to remember that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Instead, we must do everything to help ourselves succeed, which includes taking care of our mental health and kicking imposter syndrome to the curb. Take a break, do something you love, talk with friends, and be easy on yourself.

So, here is a reminder that in a room full of smart people (yes, that includes you!), remember to also be kind.

Valeria Cota is a member of the SOT Graduate Student Leadership Committee Communications Subcommittee.

1 comment


12 days ago

Beautifully said and relevant to all!