In my irrational subconscious, I feared the summer might go something like this:
Walk into the lab. Never fully grasp what the heck was going on. Cost the lab thousands of dollars on reagents flushed away in countless botched experiments. Spill something worth the entirety of my fellowship stipend*. Break some extravagantly expensive piece of equipment. Accomplish nothing more than generating a small landfill worth of pipette tips and earning the title of “that mathematically inept undergrad (who also broke that extravagantly expensive piece of equipment).” Definitely never get results, leading to shame and dishonor upon myself.
Instead, it’s gone more like this:
Walked into the lab. Sort of understood what the heck was going on. Repeated one experiment six times without ever improving the results and questioned my skill (or lack thereof) as a scientist, until it was determined that one of the chemicals used in the experiment was faulty (weight lifted, but, SERIOUSLY?!??!?!!). Spilled nothing — yet (knock on wood! KNOCK ON WOOD!!). Aspirated liquid up into a mechanical pipette and had a small panic attack until I learned the issue was easily rectified by replacing the relatively cheap filter (SIGH of RELIEF). Accomplished generating a small landfill worth of pipette tips and earned the self-proclaimed title of “that mathematically inept-when-being-watched undergrad,” along with stumbling upon a paper that helped my mentor and PI greatly with a project and running experiments that actually succeeded (excitement!).
So it’s going better than I expected, is what I’m saying.
I got my first results around week four, which was relieving (“My poster will not be a barren landscape!”), gratifying (I can do science after all omg), and exciting because they look pretty, too — all graphical and columnar and ombre-colored (sorry, but you should know by now: Casey = science nerd). I’m still working on some other experiments but should have results for those soon as well. It’s definitely not been a water slide-smooth ride to the finish — more like a wooden roller coaster, with lots of little bumps and ridges that are irritatingly unpredictable, but keep things from becoming dull. There have been setbacks (dead cells *sad face*), problems (ionomycin that’s a DUD!) and, of course, plenty of user error (let’s leave our cells out of the incubator overnight! yay!**), but I’ve come to just say “Welp, that’s science,” and take it in stride. Every day is different, and that makes it interesting. The summer has slid by so quickly and I can’t believe our poster session is almost upon us; it’s been a rich and fulfilling learning experience in the Abraham lab and I’m not ready for my project to end!
*Not that I would expect anyone would trust me so early on to be unsupervised with a $4,000 bottle of something. Heh.
**Amazingly, this little brain fart did not kill my cells (C166s are tough little suckers), the experiment somehow still worked, and you’ll probably see the results on my poster. HA!