It's been more than eight months since I took the decision to try my hands at experiments. It was a crazy decision to say the least. I have gone from "Hah! What was I thinking!!" to "God! This is so taxing!" to "Yeah! I own this shit. No big deal." It's been frustrating and overwhelming and yet so worth the time and effort I put in.
When I started out last year, it was the first time in 7 years that I even held a beaker or a conical flask in my hand, let alone a living organism like a worm. I was unsure if I would be any good and it seemed overwhelming. But, I took the plunge anyway. In the beginning I was excited about this fresh challenge. Call it my ignorance, but what I didn't realize at the time was that I would have to be attuned to the worm's and its food, the bacteria's, life cycle. This meant that some steps of the experimental protocol would fall late at night or early in the morning. And so, I became the legendary sleep deprived biologist who was awake feeding the lab animal at odd hours.
It's been a learning experience though. I failed at experiments multiple times due to various reasons some of which were quite silly. Either because of bad planning, I couldn't keep time, or my stuff got contaminated or a third worse scenario when I forgot an important step or ingredient. But, unlike theoretical modeling, I couldn't start over immediately. I needed to do the preliminary steps or prepare media all over again which took up to 2-3 days. This just made me realize how important planning and creating backups was.
Doing experiments myself has also given me an appreciation for the effort that one puts in to generate real-time data. The experimentalist literally owns her data, knowing every single detail like no one else. And this is valuable knowledge, sometimes leading to fresh research problems. I have also accepted the fact that the first time I learn something new, I am going to fail. There are skills in the experimental world that require practice and there is absolutely no way around it. But, there is also no greater joy when you perfect that skill and get it right.
Here's to more such crazy challenges and greater pay-offs, hopefully. *fingers crossed*