Up until last semester, I viewed science in one context- to learn science. I had never been exposed to the other spectrum- to do science. While we “did scientific experiments” in high school labs, it just felt like I was following instructions on cookbook. It wasn’t until I got to Duke that I actually felt like I was attempting to answer questions that hadn’t been asked before. This summer, I got to feel the satisfaction of not only asking interesting questions and even successfully answering one of them. This summer, I got to do science and nothing but science.
Funny enough, it wasn’t the doing science that I will cherish the most about this summer. The most invaluable moments are the 20 minute weekly philosophical talks about science by mentor, Mariano.
I would say one of the greatest lessons I learned this summer is that there is no capital T Truth; there are only many lowercase t truths that can suggest a capital T Truth. I knew about this saying, but getting a first hand experience of trying to reveal a truth cemented these words in me. I began to question not only if my truths were sufficient enough to infer about a Truth, but also if other things I thought were True were ever only true. I am a very trusting person, and before this summer, if you were to tell me something is science was True, I would probably shrug my shoulders and believe the Truth. Now, however, since there isn’t a Truth, I am able to critically think about whether there is even enough truths to even suggest a Truth.
Another similar (almost depressing) lessons I learned about is the vastness of the unknown. In ecology, there is what happens in the lab, what happens out in the field, and what happens in nature. No matter how hard we try, there is just no way that we can simulate exactly what happens in nature in the lab or out in the field. This hangs over each researcher’s head, because there is just isn’t a way of knowing exactly what’s happening in nature. There is no way of even predicting how much of the unknown is there. This is a scary thought, but finding comfort in the vastness of the unknown is solace in and of itself.
Honestly, I think I will remember these lessons more than the specifics about the inheritance of Arabidopsis thaliana.
I guess I would kind of say I figured out that I not only loved doing science, but almost liked learning about the drawback even more. These lessons helps to put science in context of the natural environment, and I love nature all that more after realizing the breathtaking immenseness of its complexity.
Thank you so much to Dr. Gurnwald and (future Dr.) Jason Long for allowing me to learn and do so much science. Thanks to the Donohue lab for being the kindest people.
Although I won’t be continuing this lab during the semester (I realized I am more interested in the molecular side of things), I am beyond grateful for the experiences I have had.
Also sorry for the title. I can’t help myself sometimes.