My understanding of my project became better as time went on. At the beginning, I was very confused about what exactly my project was trying to understand in the broader sense. I understood the individual experiments I was conducting and how they help me accomplish my goals, but I did not know how exactly my work fits into the greater network of genetic research. I think reading more literature papers helped me connect this knowledge gap. I was writing a rough draft for the potential literature paper covering our current understanding of the transcriptional regulation of polarity genes while I worked at the lab this semester.
At first, it was very difficult for me to read through papers because I had a hard time interpreting the difficult concepts. The process, however, became better as I read more papers. I think building up subject specific vocabulary is very important to really understanding your research. Although it is important to not overly rely on jargons, you first have to know the complicated ideas to then break it down into simple, digestible pieces. The learning curve can be difficult but it helped me to overcome a lot of my confusion. It is also equally important to communicate your misunderstanding to your mentor. When I finished reading the paper, I would type up a short summary of the content and send my mentor any questions I had. As you expose yourself to difficult concepts, you grow accustomed to it to a point where you are comfortable with the subject.
Through conducting more research, I also realized how important asking questions was in academia. I always knew this at the back of my head since it was emphasized in my high school science classes. However, it was easy to get caught up on the task-completing aspect of research. I took more time this semester to stop what I was doing and reflect upon the work I was doing. What are the biological foundations to this specific technique? How is what I am trying to do benefitting my field? What are the other unanswered questions?
I found the blog writing aspect about CURF very helpful because it pushed me to put down my thoughts into words. The process of writing these blogs was very reflective and gave me an opportunity to evaluate my beliefs regarding research. I hope to conduct more research and apply to fall fellowships now that CURF is over. I hope to hone in both my technical skills as well as my ability to ask valid questions