Due to its hands-on nature, research can be incredibly exciting, fun, and engaging (especially when it works). However, as with most things, this is not “always” the case. And when things don’t work as expected, research can be frustrating, disappointing, and perhaps not so fun. This semester has really been a semester of growing along with my lab as I continued to accept both my successes and failures in research. And I’ve realized that I still have more to learn.
Each experiment, each step of an experiment, is important and should be treated as such. For anyone who might be interested in research, it is okay if you come with no experience. But be ready to learn and ready to accept what you still have yet to know. And if there’s something you already think you know or have mastered, be ready to improve! Never think that your role starting off is too little. Remember what the work you are doing in the lab means and how that will help so many people in the future. There was a period of time when I felt like research was growing monotonous because I was constantly doing the same experiments or procedures or data analysis. It felt repetitive and not as exciting as before. But at that moment, I was reminded again of why the work I was doing was important and how the data from these studies would be analyzed and not only contribute to this project but also be used to help more people in future projects. By shifting my perspective, I now treat every single step seriously and every experiment as if I’m learning something new. Because really, well, I am. There’s always ways to be curious and innovative. For example, when something didn’t work I had to consider what I had done each step and what may have potentially been the result. If those factors were eliminated, it was also important to consider the reagents and materials themselves. So recording everything and being organized is extremely important as well.
I’ve also grown to appreciate investigating my own questions before I ask them so much more. Information in the form of papers, quick Google searches, etc. are readily available on the internet. Whenever I learned something new or encountered a new reagent or material, I would look it up to understand it better. This helped me not only with that specific experiment, but it also allowed me to be more flexible in my thinking by understanding how different reagents or experiments were used and how part of this could be adapted for other purposes as well. In addition, understanding the why behind the what made it so much easier to remember what I needed to do. Research papers are also key. Basically, the internet is at your disposal. Let yourself delve into many rabbit holes while doing research because not only will you have a much better understanding but you’ll also find yourself more passionate about what you’re doing. Then, if you have any questions or just want to share something cool you learned, speak up!
Now that the CURF is over, I plan on continuing my work in the lab. I want to delve deeper into research and allow myself to understand my own interests within research and become even more independent as a researcher. There’s so much that I can learn from my peers and mentors at the lab as well. I hope to continue to learn with them and grow with my lab community.