Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Hi, I'm Imraan.
I'm an explorer in training.

By explorer, I mean the art of research, of finding new questions to analyze, new data to interpret.
Found myself with a bit of a problem as I was working on my abstract and data summary for Module 1. 

I had two roads ahead of me:

1. Gather as much data as I could, and puke different results and analysis of data into the data summary.

2. Carefully choose data that fit the hypothesis that I had initially come into the experiment with.

Both of these roads were fraught with traps that experienced travelers knew well, and the occasional moan in the distance indicated that there were inexperienced travelers walking these paths. As an explorer-in-training, I knew nothing of the complexities of those roads, of the benefits and negatives of each pathway. I could only rely on my intuition to see which path would lead to the "correct" destination.

In the end, I chose the second road. I plodded along this road, carrying my prior experience and the map, written by the master explorers that taught our class. Yet, a journey isn't just one decision, it's a collection of decisions combined into one big hopeful mess.

I ran into a caution sign. The caution sign seemed out of place at first, interrupting my thoughts as I meandered forward. It was rusted, words worn by the passage of several years. The words hinted at a sort of requirement, as you will, that one must have before they can pass.

Caution sign: "10 pages not including title/abstract/references".

At that time, I had created multiple figures, analyzed the results, and came up with a conclusion that I felt supported my initial premise. However, I had come short with respect to number of pages. I panicked, searching through the vast amount of figures that I could create, if only to increase the number of pages. As time passed, and my frantic thoughts slowed and congealed into a coherent and sane mix, I thought about what I was going to sacrifice in my work.

One of the first rules that was told to the explorers-in-training was to craft a narrative, a story that used data to ride to its natural conclusion. And in my panic, I had forgotten that one rule, about to ruin the narrative for the sake of an arbitrary page number. I had looked at the multiple UniFrac tests, I had created phylogenetic trees for the whole entire class, yet none of them seemed to fit with the story that I was weaving.

As an explorer-in-training, I had almost failed on my first journey. I had almost sacrificed one of the most important rules in this travel for the sake of convenience.

But, all was well in the end, I found other areas that I could expand on. In keeping with this "journey", I had completed the requirement in a method that didn't sacrifice the rules.

The destination was reached, and I'm still not very sure about what the key takeaway from this report was. However, I do know that the lessons that I learned from completing this assignment are applicable to any sort of "journey" that I might take in the future, and I look forward to learning more as an explorer-in-training.


PS: I feel like this Kirby right now.

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