Eight weeks is almost nothing in the world of science, where experiments are marked in months and results in years. At most, I can say I caught a fleeting glimpse, a snapshot of a singular moment in the scientific process. But even this ephemeral glimpse was saturated with incredibly valuable lessons that do a little more in clearing the uncertainty shrouding my future. In just these short eight weeks, I was able to experience both the highs and lows of scientific research. I got a taste of the beauty and freedom in asking your own questions and creatively crafting your own solutions, while encountering many unforeseen obstacles along the way. Through this process, I am grateful to my mentors Dr. Ru-Rong Ji and Dr. Chris Donnelly for their close mentorship. I am also immensely grateful for Dr. Grunwald and Anna for their support in this journey of discovering what science means to me.
This summer was truly an immersive experience I had initially hoped for. In the beginning, I could barely differentiate a microglia from and an astrocyte, but now I can explain the distinct roles they play in the pain system as a whole. I got the opportunity to learn many new techniques, such as behavioral tests and immunohistochemistry, and strategies in general that scientists use to elaborately and seemingly effortlessly answer some of the most mind-boggling questions. Through trials and failures, I was also able to experience the struggles of research: time-consuming results and elusive perfection. However, what I enjoyed the most this summer more than learning any technique is thinking like a scientist, from asking questions, to communicating science to diverse audiences, to assessing the validity of scientific methods. Events such as the chalk talks and poster session have shown me that science is always an ongoing conversation that I’d be excited to be a part of.
What gave me an even greater sense of what science could mean to me were the faculty talks. It was really helpful to hear the distinct perspectives of different faculty and how many different paths can all lead to the same desired result. From their experiences, I have learned to see scientific research as a humbling relationship, where no one can really outlearn science. These scientists are some of the most knowledgeable people in their fields, yet they have the humility to admit they know nothing when in search of new knowledge gaps to investigate. And so, I feel like I am definitely farther along the “chase” of science I had mentioned the first week but I am nowhere near the end.