As the summer is coming to a close, I’ve finished my last week of my third lab rotation at BU. I loved my six weeks in the fish lab and have chosen (and thankfully have been accepted) to stay! This means that I will complete the three years of my PhD work in this lab on the BU medical campus. Working in science is a peculiar thing. It takes a collection of support, mental tools, and clever tactics to successfully complete a research project or degree. Luckily in my lab, I have been training with an amazingly helpful PhD student who has become a mentor to me. With my mentor’s help, these are some of the tools for success I have learned so far:
-Treat everyday as its own accomplishment.
In science, a fifty percent success rate on your experiments is typical and can be a very pleasing statistic. When you are working on something you don’t understand (which is why it is science, you’re the one solving the unknown), of course, it’s not going to go perfectly. Your goals and results are unknown! You are probably going to be surprised by what you find. The trick is to not get down about a failed experiment. Let those twelve hours or three months of preparation roll off your back if something is not going to work out. Daily life in the lab must be treated like a job. You show up every morning, you do your best, and eventually (because you didn’t stop trying) something is going to work.
-Be actively involved in your environment.
This is why doctors and researchers are always reading new journal articles in the field of interest. You have to keep up with new findings, new techniques, and what direction your field is going in. If you read or hear about a technique, a new transgenic model, or any aspect of science you’re unfamiliar with, pursue it. Find out what you don’t know. Admit ignorance. Little bits of great ideas can be pieced together to add to your own project. Take the best of what’s around you and you’ll be a well-rounded professional.
-Like the people around you.
What can make your workday one hundred times better? Working with friends. It’s essentially the same concept as getting along with your roommates. Yes, you all are different, and no, they aren’t going anywhere. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn about other people’s cultures, lives, and personalities. And certainly take advantage of the opportunity to like the people you work with. I am fond of everyone in the fish lab, but even if you are somehow inexplicably opposed to making friends with a particular person you meet, try to get over it. It will be much more enjoyable to work in a friendly and pleasant atmosphere. You will probably discover that everyone can be a great friend and resource at work.
Those are the first of my reflective thoughts on my last summer rotation and future research lab. I think they are applicable to almost anyone in the workplace, though. I hope everyone has a great rest of the summer!