I found through my time in the Brackenridge Fellowship that as a researcher you must be flexible. There were times where I thought I would be able to be fully prepared and fully predict what was going to happen next, but things can always change and a good researcher will be able to adapt. At the beginning of the summer I think I would have been able to acknowledge that fact, but experiencing it first hand was much different than hearing about it.
Since I was working with insects and plants I had to spend much more time than I originally planned just on the maintenance of my study species. Not only did I have to keep everything alive, but the colonies had to be thriving and reproducing. I found out the limit on my ability to keep one of my insect species alive, and it was a much lower threshold than what I needed. It was in that moment that I had to be flexible and adjusted my experiment accordingly. In addition, once I set a a definitive start date to my experiment it really looked like I would not be able to prepare everything in time. While sometimes the surprises that come with research might be challenges, sometimes there are things that work out without a hitch unexpectedly, and I was able to make the necessary preparations to start on the day that I planned for.
I found many things valuable about the Brackenridge experience, but one of the most important things was just learning how to talk about my research in a more clear way. It seems like it would be an incredibly simple task, but sometimes knowing too much about a topic makes it overwhelming to know how to pair it down to just the most important details. In addition, it was valuable to hear from other undergraduate researchers and to hear that I wasn’t the only person running into obstacles or struggling over their project. It was reassuring and gave me the motivation to keep working even when I might have felt discouraged.
I hope to continue my research in the Turcotte Lab now that the Brackenridge is over. I will take the lessons I learned and perspective I gained with me while I decide my next steps after graduation. I am grateful for this opportunity and the chance to gain a new perspective on the research process.