Research is hard. Ever since I started working in the lab, I have been constantly reminded that there is a good day and there are bad days for research. However, this unique nature of research is precisely what makes the good day so rewarding.
Research is even harder for undergraduate students. Different from learning in a classroom setting where you are basically a taker of the information given by the professor. In the realm of research, not only do you have to acquire knowledge from various sources, you are also expected to apply the techniques and eventually find something novel.
There are a few points that I wish I had known before I started my journey in research.
Number 1, be a diligent note-taker! Benchwork is a considerable component for anyone interested in basic science or translational biology research. Although it is very cool to play with pipettes and solutions the first time you start doing bench works, remember that you will be expected to repeat a lot of the techniques you learned on your own in the future. Prepare a dedicated research notebook and carry it with you all the time! Write down all the specific information when you first start in the lab. It can be tedious at first. But when your journey continues, you will know what you should go into the notes and what doesn’t. Besides the steps of performing the research technique, you always want to ask yourself from the beginning: What is the purpose of this technique? Why am I doing this? Be proactive, and don’t be afraid to ask your mentor! They are always willing to see you have questions!
Number 2, be patient! Research can be tedious at the beginning. There are a lot of memorizations and repetitions. However, perfection on the techniques will be a huge asset facilitating you to further research. I would always recommend undergraduate students who just joined the lab to learn all the methods that the mentor offers. After you become more independent, start thinking if the lab’s theme is what you are interested in!
Number 3, read! When I first started my research, I always found research papers intimidating. I tried to avoid reading them as long as I could. However, I began to get more and more confused when I was asked to perform a particular experiment. I don’t know why I am doing it and why does it matter? Read research papers of any kind that are related to the field you research and try to learn the logistics and the flow of how the research team approached the project
I don’t think my research journey will stop after CURF nor graduating. I foresee myself moving on to medical school to further understand the basics of human anatomy and physiology. In the future, combining my knowledge and experience as a physician with my benchtop work, I believe I will be able to address certain clinical demanded questions. To me, research is not just about the eventual outcomes and results; research constantly powers my curiosity and motivates me to find a better solution than existing ones. My undergraduate research experience will be vital to my eventual success as a future physician-scientist.