Skip to main content

The experimental conundrum

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*

xxRS

Comments

  1. Good!
    I particularly like the last point, when you do the experiment the data are yours, and that no one else knows the data the way you do, you know every detail of it.

    In my case, I work with the study of others' speech, which means I need to see not just what they say, but also how they say that, their words, accent, intonation. For a professor in our univerfsity system, where I have been for somne years, it is possible to ask one of your students to transcribe the speech. Transcribing other's speech is so monotonous, and so fatally boring! You will still see the gross details when your students do this. But, you have rightly said, when I do it myself, overcoming my reluctance at such a mundane chore, I see things which I never would otherwise. I would never know that an American scientist of Indian origin, in spite of decades in the U S, stresses the penultimate vowel in Biology and adds a vowel before students, or inserts a vowel in film, making it a bi-syllabic word. Hands do not just feed mouths, they also feed brains!

    Good luck! Keep your fingers busy too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for your insightful comment. Especially like how you've so beautifully summarized my whole thought in "Hands do not just feed mouths, they also feed brains!" :)

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Nature gives us no choice...

The breaking news story in the world of sports right now is the one about Serena Williams announcing her pregnancy. And while this is probably good news, it is not something her fans look forward to. I'm sure it must have been a huge decision for her and something that she must be coming to terms with even now as I write this. The pregnancy means that Serena Williams, the best women's tennis player ever in the open era, who is still at her prime and has just won the Australian Open 2017 will now miss the rest of the season this year. How unfair is that! Why does she have to choose between being a mother and playing tennis when her male counterparts just go through parenthood with a breeze. They never ever have to sit out, never have to make such life changing decisions, never have to contemplate and plan their return to tennis after the birth of their child. 
It is just frustrating that the likes of Djokovic and Federer have been at their prime winning titles with fatherhood …

Ten realizations after working in a wet lab

I started working in a biology lab about a year ago and realized quite a few things while I learnt the ropes. Here they are in no particular order. You go through a lot of pipette tips and latex gloves thereby generating a lot of non-biodegradable waste. So yeah, research does not always help the world, sometimes it just generates new trash. You run out of good clothes because almost all of them have bleach stains on them. And of course, that's because you're too lazy to put on a lab coat. You develop a bit of an OCD coz' you're constantly worried that you didn't turn on the shaker, or left your bacteria plate in the incubator for too long or left the gas on, etc. I can actually list a whole page of stuff I worry about long after I've left for home. :PBacterial contamination can ruin your experiments and make you lose a day and sometimes more.Tiny tubes of 40 micro-liters of enzyme cost over USD 200. That sure seems like a lot of money!You have to make media an…

Because I watched Wonder Woman... :D

I am just back from a screening of Wonder Woman and I must say that it is a gorgeous film. It has a good story, stunning visuals, several funny moments and the best part is that it has a female superhero in a movie that's this big! I loved it. I loved how she has a large presence as a very very strong woman. It is truly a joy to watch a female superhero saving the hero, being badass and taking the lead in the fight against evil. 
This movie is shot almost entirely from a woman's perspective. There are many scenes where Wonder Woman is seen perplexed about the ways of men and mankind, she wonders why a woman would wear a tight dress if she can't fight in it, or why she isn't allowed in a council discussing the future course for the "great war". She questions the role of men in life going as far as saying that she's learned that "men are integral to reproduction, but unnecessary for the purposes of pleasure". This was an awesome line and it's…