I started in my lab only midway through the week, and by then, the imposter syndrome had set in. Hearing about all the things that my fellow BSURFers were doing and learning, I felt incredibly incompetent. However, when I finally met Dr. Williamson (my primary mentor) on Wednesday afternoon, he assured me that mistakes and misunderstandings were to be expected and that his motto was always to “trust, but verify”. I still feel like I’ve been thrown into the deep end, but at least I have a life vest! I’ve realized that being a budding scientist involves living in almost constant and see-sawing states of confusion and exhilaration.
The Williamson lab studies the bidirectional role of gut microbiota on depression in preclinical mouse models (among other projects). In my first few days during my first real lab experience, a couple of things have quickly become apparent: 1) science involves a lot more waiting around than one would think – for example, the Illumina HiSeq DNA sequencer that we use takes 65+ hours to run! This leads to 2) how incredible the equipment and technology that exists today is, and 3) how single sentences in published papers often represent extremely elaborate and laborious protocols. Science requires patience and perseverance, and it demands knowledge and experience.
This summer I expect to get a glimpse of life as a researcher, I anticipate failing often while learning how to ask for help, I wish to feel the rush of an unexpected discovery, and, most importantly, I hope to foster relationships with my lab that I can build on in the future. I know that research often involves time-consuming lit review and data analysis, but I’m really looking forward to getting my hands dirty!