You really can’t imagine what research is like until you actually do it. Coming into this summer, I had absolutely no idea what working in a lab would entail. When my friends and family asked me how I would be spending the summer, I answered that I knew I was working in a biochemistry lab, which was about the extent of my knowledge about what I would be doing. I obviously didn’t know what I was getting myself into!
That being said, I am so grateful to have had this opportunity this summer! Transitioning to lab work can be pretty difficult, overwhelming, and scary, but BSURF provided great advising and mentoring and most importantly, a community of other students who were going through the same transition. I have really loved getting to know everyone, and I hope I have formed connections that will last throughout my time at Duke and beyond.
I have learned a lot about the nature of research and lab work this summer. First of all, eight weeks is not a lot of time. By the time I really got a grasp on what I was doing, it was almost time to leave. I need to devote a lot more time to a project to get rewarding results. Second, stuff goes wrong. In fact, sometimes I think it goes wrong more often than it goes right. There is always some setback or unexpected problem. Data doesn’t look nice. I forgot to add ATP to a sample, or I don’t have enough protein to do an important assay. A machine gives me a crazy error message the one time I’m completely alone in lab with no one to ask for help. In the words of my mentor, “that’s science.” Research is not like the lab component of my chemistry class. It is messy and confusing, and sometimes you have no idea what’s going wrong or right. However, my final discovery was that research can be incredibly rewarding. The first time I quantified a protein gel, put the data in Excel, and created a graph that strongly indicated the expected result, I was amazed. Hours of work had gone into the creation of that data set, and it was an actual result that I could potentially use. There is really nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that I felt generating that graph or the feeling of seeing my name and results on a 42 x 36 poster.
I am beyond grateful for this experience: this summer was really the perfect time for me to test out the world of research without having to balance the demands of the academic year. I can’t wait to see where the future takes me, but I am even more excited to keep up with the scientific accomplishments of the friends I have made this summer. As Dr. G says, science is communication, and I know that the truly amazing people I have met here will have some awesome research to communicate soon!
So goodbye BSURF and thank you!