Tag Archives: lab

Independence and Feedback, a Short Reflection

I like to think that I’m pretty good at working independently. I don’t usually need much supervision or someone to tell me to get to work or what to do. I like figuring things out myself. I have no problem asking questions and look for help whenever I see that battling an issue any further by myself isn’t productive.

That is one of the reasons why I loved my last project I spent more than 3 years working on. It started as a summer internship to try to replicate some published results using a technique nobody at the lab tried before and quite different from what everyone was doing, thus, nobody really knew how to help me and I was pretty much left to figure it all out by myself. My supervisors weren’t the type who were breathing down my neck, it was closer to ‘my door is always open but I’m not often here’ type of supervision (they made up for it in other ways). Not that I was complaining. Although it could have been scary, the folks at the lab were very nice and always helpful – there was always someone with whom I could discuss things, show me how to do stuff and help me come up with practical solutions. I would mostly only go to my supervisors when I had some nice(ish) results to share and get a ‘good job’ from them.

However, after changing labs a few months ago, I’ve been feeling somewhat different. The style of supervision is pretty similar to what I’m used to and I still like it, but for some reason I’ve also been feeling in more need of encouragement than before. I don’t know exactly why but I’ve been feeling that I’m not working enough/getting enough results. I mean, part of the reason is, of course, that I have been somewhat relaxed compared to the time when Master’s deadlines were pushing me, but that was one intense year. For the rest of it, I really don’t know. I keep working and kind of hoping it passes, but for now I’m really grateful for unexpected positive feedback I get from time to time from my supervisors even when I haven’t presented any new data (a recent comment made me think and come up with this post).

Feeling rather introspective,

Noodle.

This Week I’m a Wave

I’ve been feeling out of phase this week, you know, like a bunch of coherent waves, erm, losing the coherence, if that makes sense, sort of just bouncing and feeling uncomfortably pulled back and forth. I’ve been trying to be more productive and learn new things and stuff over the last few weeks and to that end, in addition to my own work, I’ve started helping out with some other stuff at the lab. This resulted in quite lot of dashing about and, while the new work is fun, I feel like I don’t actually accomplish that much more, maybe even less somehow.

I feel like I either need to plan my time for each project better or give up the extra project. It is fun, though, it’s so relaxing to sometimes just follow instructions instead of doing all the thinking. All the thinking is a lot of fun also though.

I feel very complicated right now,

Noodle.

Knowing What I Know Now: What I’ve Picked Up As An Undegrad

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,

Noodle.

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.

It’s a Love/Frustration Sort of Thing

Disclaimer: the following paragraphs are the product of a brain which spent entire Sunday trying to catch up with studying. Please, just go along with it, it made sense in my head, but might have got scrambled somewhere down the neural pathways, or something. Thank you for your cooperation.

Lately, I feel I’ve been hearing a lot about this thing called ‘alternative careers’ (in science) because apparently loads of folks holding PhD degrees can’t find a job in academia. Before, I actually hadn’t even considered that I could work somewhere else.

However, the last couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy at the lab because a task I hoped to have a few months to finish suddenly got a much closer and more strictly enforced deadline (meaning, I actually can’t let it swoosh past). And naturally, when one is in a hurry all sorts of things start to go wrong: stuff that is always cumbersome is even more cumbersome, things that shouldn’t take much time suddenly requiring a lot of tweaking, and even things that you take for granted fail. The latter is particularly annoying because it takes so long to determine what actually went wrong. Which means working way past reasonable time every day. And the situation is not helped by the fact that I still have to go to those pesky classes, because, hey, mid-term and assignment-presenting season is approaching.

So, the concept of a 9-to-5 job (and no classes) is sounding pretty good right about now. But. Even though I’m dead tired and frustrated every day, I still can’t help but sort of love it. Especially when I’m the first to arrive at the lab in the morning or when I’m the only one left at night, working. I don’t know how to describe that feeling exactly but it feels cool. However, at the same time I just kinda hope it doesn’t last too long,

Noodle.