"Can you talk about going from a research dependent (when your projects are fed to you) to someone able to write single author papers?"Here a few thoughts.
- Get a good mentor. Ask them to help you with this.
- Be aware of how committed the person paying your salary is to you making this transition.
- Before and during any project (both those fed to you and ones you come up with) ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? Why is it important? What do I hope to discover? Is it realistic, particularly in the desired time frame? When and why might I abandon the project?"
- Ask the same questions of your supervisor and/or collaborators.
- Get in the habit of critically evaluating other peoples research (fellow students and postdocs, papers you read, talks you hear..). What is the basis for your positive and negative evaluations?
- Continually work on your writing skills.
Having said all that bear in mind that "independence" is not the be all and end all. It should be tempered with the following two points.
First, the ultimate goal is to do the best possible science. This usually involves collaboration. Different people have different strengths and weaknesses: choosing specific projects, putting together a collaboration, doing the actual calculations or experiments, writing code, making devices, writing the paper, getting the grants, promoting the work, connecting theory and experiment, ...
A key is recognising your own strengths and weaknesses and working with people who complement you and appreciate your contribution.
Second, the importance of "independence" in career advancement varies significantly between different countries and institutions. Furthermore, I fear it is often evaluated in a fickle, highly subjective, and inconsistent manner. Hence, you may think you have become "independent" when you have published a single author paper; don't assume that others will see it that way. They may have completely different criteria or not even notice.
I welcome comments.
I welcome comments.