Things I Learned In Research
I only finished my first research project out of many, but I already learned some game-changing things that I wish I knew earlier.
1. It’s okay to mess up. In fact, it should be encouraged (within reason). You learn so many more intimate details about your work from mistakes than from successes. PCRs fail even when you’re careful, and animal models don’t behave like they’re supposed to. Undergrad labs can make you feel stupid when your experiment doesn’t work, but in research, mistakes happen all the time. Document them and learn from them.
2. There’s a lot of waiting around. Experiments can be slow. Progress in your project can be even slower. Manage your time between experiments so that it’s not wasted; read, write a chapter, scribble some ideas, or just close your eyes and think. All time is valuable.
3. If you can figure out a new way to do something, do it. There might not be a formal protocol you have to follow. If you think of an efficient way to observe something, go for it. Practice thinking outside the box.
4. There’s a lot less rules than you think there are. Of course, follow lab safety rules. But the lab is a resource- use it. You don’t have to walk on eggshells somewhere you belong.
5. Stay true to your findings. This isn’t an undergrad laboratory course. You’re looking at novel stuff here. Don’t play up or fake your data to impress your supervisor. That helps no one- tell it like it is. Believe in your work.
6. Your lab mates are not here to criticize you. They are your colleagues and mentors- ask them for help if you need it. Your work is important to their work too. You matter just as much as them.
I can’t possibly list all the things I learned, because this research experience has changed how I think in such integral ways, but here are a few anyway. I'm sure this is only the beginning.
Feel free to add anything that you learned!