Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Module 1: Maybe I Like Research (Probably Not Still) / Research is Results-Driven

I Probably Hate Research

So far, I've been a UROP at two different labs, both being considered extremely respected labs with extremely cutting-edge, exciting research outputs. I participated in the first one for a summer, and the second one for almost an entire academic year now. I'm still in the 2nd UROP right now, at the same time as 20.109.

From these experiences, I recently decided that I (probably?) hate research. (Sorry 20.109!) Being in the same room for hours on end doing labor that almost always feels like manual labor to me makes me feel like I'm going stir crazy! I am envious of postdocs and graduate students having their own UROPs to do the grunt work for them! I recognize its importance, but I still can't shake the feelings of mental decay.

But Maybe I Don't

However, for some reason, I actually really enjoyed doing the Module 1 Abstract & Data Summary assignment. I didn't particularly enjoy lab time itself (although I liked designing primers), besides that I like getting to actually know the teaching faculty and get to talk to my lab partner during lab work. I speculate that I didn't enjoy the lab work because I often felt like I was just following the protocols (again, with the exception of the primer design session), which I also feel I do in my UROPs, so I didn't really internalize what we were actually doing.

This feeling was furthered when I finally sat down to do the module 1 assignment on Friday night (thank goodness the deadline was pushed back!) and saw no patterns in the data. I probably would have panicked out of not knowing what I could possibly interpret from the data and write about if I were more prone to stress. However, at some point between waking up before my sleep cycle was over and ending up at Noreen's office hours, I had a lovely revelation of what to write about! All at once, I saw a conclusion I could write about, potential applications and implications, and felt somewhat vindicated! I actually stayed up late of my own choosing in order to keep crunching out the paper because I was so thrilled that I actually had some idea of what pull from the data. (Although I was still horribly troubled by what to write in the introduction, despite having written topic sentences previously. It feels like there is a lot of pressure for all of our writing to be precise and correct.)

What's more is that I was stuck at 7 pages and felt like I had to find more to write about, so I looked at another variable that might be correlated with our data and noticed something else that I wasn't expecting to see!

I Suspect That Researchers Live for the Results (When They Happen) & Tolerate the Rest

I've never actually felt terribly excited or enthusiastic about my UROPs because I suppose either A) nothing ever worked anyways, or B) my postdoc essentially knew what was going to happen anyways. So I suppose being able to find meaning in the numbers (or in this case, sequences) yourself really makes the difference. I'm not sure if the rush is actually enough to make me not think I hate research, especially since I suspect the rush only comes when things do work to some extent, but it definitely made the end of the module go out with a positive bang!

Sub-Headers Are Everything

I realize that my portrayal of the data is not as great as I'd like it to be, especially as I really struggled with understanding what the Unifrac tests actually meant (and I realized I left in a clause that I didn't mean to just now as I was writing this post). So the part about this assignment being 15% of my grade still kind of unnerves me, but I'm still pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed doing an assignment for once!

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