I just finished an 8 week research scholarship at my university (University of Stirling), and I do have to say, I think I’ve learnt more in that 8 weeks about real life science than I ever thought I would to begin with. But astonishingly, I also learned even more about something I did expect; myself. From injecting larvae to nearly blowing up a centrifuge to culturing cells from what looked like frozen ice cubes, there was a lot to take in.
My supervisor, Dr Jenson Lim, is a very driven man and has a certain way about experiments and procedure etc. If it wasn’t done his way, he’d let you know about it. However, his meticulous nature after working around London and Birmingham in research came to light soon into the project. Being asked to do things I’ve never done before for a student is very terrifying, but Jenson just expected you to ‘get it’ and learn as you go along. Which to begin with I struggled with, understandably. However this approach was beneficial in working in a real research lab, as it’s all down to you. You have to plan it all in advance. You have to get the results. You have to figure out what those results show and get them down on paper.
You can see the theme here no?
However, what was the most vital piece of knowledge I gained from those 8 weeks, was the fact that you can’t put too much pressure on yourself, or you’ll crumble. I made a couple of big mistakes that cost a weeks worth of work. And honestly, I haven’t felt much in my life. I wanted to smash all the beakers and phials in front of me a scream to myself. I felt like I was letting Jenson down, the university, myself, everyone, for a mistake that in hindsight probably could’ve been avoided.
How a person goes about the aftermath of a situation like that defines them. You either get consumed by it, allowing your negativity to control your actions, and potentially say/do things you’ll come to regret and the end result would be to give up. Or, you realise that mistakes happen, and they can be fixed, therefore you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to the hard graft.
I nearly gave up. I nearly packed it in and was going to say to Jenson ‘I just can’t do this, I’m sorry’. But, what good would that do? In terms of research, my self-esteem, Jenson’s work, the bottom line was if I’d gotten this far, why quit now? I finished the project with Jenson, took all the stained microscope images (100’s of the ones like in the post header), crunched all the numbers and plotted all the graphs and yesterday, I handed in my first draft of my project manuscript to him. I couldn’t be more pleased to have an end result over those 8 weeks.
Jenson, however sometimes he may’ve seemed harsh at times, gave me a glimpse at what it’s like to do research that one day could make a difference in the world somewhere, so for teaching my that, among other things, I’d like to thank you, gratefully.