There’s a new undegrad student working at the lab (incidentally, their major is the same as mine was – Biophysics). It makes me feel a bit strange – not being of the youngest ‘generation’ at the lab anymore. It feels a bit weird being asked questions about this protocol or other and classes and stuff. Weird, but kind of good. I feel like I can actually help in some cases. On a rather nice coincidence, Jeremy Yoder is holding a carnival over at molecularecologist.com: Knowing What I Know Now – giving advice to yourself in the previous stage of scientific education/career. It’s very inspiring and full of excellent thoughts – I’m taking notes from all the contributions. And since I guess I’m now old enough – here goes a few things I’m glad I did as an undegrad and a few things I wish I had done better/differently:
Start Working/Doing Research (and actually show up)
I guess I’m mostly glad that I started working at a lab pretty early – at the start of my second year. It wasn’t paid or anything , I just started working towards what should be my Bachelor’s degree. I only wish I had started in my first year; maybe then that first year wouldn’t have been so depressing with only the often boring introductory classes to occupy me, but I just couldn’t make myself do anything about it.
To be fair, I don’t think I did too well at that first lab. For one thing, at least at first, I rather failed at the showing-up part because I used to be so hung up on the actual studying. Looking back, I needn’t have studied so hard. I know, it’s a bit weird, but I was so afraid of failing classes that I studied too much (my friends certainly thought so). I could’ve balanced classes and lab work better. Oh well. Showing up is key.
Try out different labs
The second thing I’m very glad about is that, after sticking with the first lab for roughly two years, I finally braced myself to leave (for some reason I was rather scared to do it). So I applied to a number of summer internships at quite a few labs (there’s this cool centralised science summer internship programme in my country, but I’m sure there are all sorts of different opportunities everywhere). And it turned out really well. So well that I’m still at the same lab more than two years later.
Also, It might be common knowledge but I didn’t know it and, in the transition process, I also realised that the work atmosphere and stuff like that is just as important as the research project. Or something. I pay a lot of attention to that now.
Take challenging classes
I’m also glad that I braved some challenging elective classes. Those turned out to be my favourite courses, even though I had to work more than I would have otherwise.
Going abroad to study for a semester is another idea I’m glad I had. I was told I should save it for later when I’ve studied more, but I’m glad I did it in my third year, even if I didn’t use all the opportunities that the trip presented. I managed to get reasonably good grades in a couple of rather tough physics classes, so it worked wonders for my confidence. Quite frankly, that alone would be enough for me to be completely satisfied about the whole thing.
I only kind of wish I had done more suggested (not required) background reading during those 4 years of Bachelor’s studies; all those books professors suggested at the beginning of each course – I checked out hardly any of them. Darn House, Doctor Who et al.
Feeling so grown-up, I think, I’ll go play with my Legos now to forget it,
P.S. I’m really not sure if I actually know anything. I just feel that instead of blindly stumbling in the dark, I have a candle now, but I still can hardly see. Maybe by the time I finish a Post-doc I’ll have a flash-light, or something.