I have spent the past five summers working as a summer camp counselor, so the day to day camp routine comes as second nature. I’ve learned how to tackle many a camp-specific obstacle such as poop in the pool, a lost shoe/pants/shirt/towel/favorite stuffed animal, and an awkward conversation or two. Stepping into a lab, however, is a completely new experience for me. I have been working in the Alberts Lab since January and have enjoyed getting settled into the lab and beginning to understand how a lab functions. Twice a week during the school year, I weighed baboon fecal samples. Walking into the lab this summer, however, I still felt the nervousness and excitement other BSURF-ers had mentioned.
The Alberts Lab focuses on animal behavior, specializing in baboon behavior. The lab studies the behavior of and collects samples from a baboon population in the Amboseli National Park in Kenya. The project I will be working on this summer will be studying how hormone levels fluctuate during the rainy and dry season, and how this affects fertility. Three other students in the lab and I are extracting hormones from fecal samples collected in Amboseli.
Now that I have gotten into a new routine in the lab, the nerves have subsided somewhat and I am simply excited to see what I will learn this summer. I expect that this learning will not only be proper pipetting technique and lab protocols. I also hope to learn what being a professional researcher is like and the different paths one can take. During lab meeting and lunches with the post-docs this past week, I have heard stories about field research that spark my interest and curiosity. I look forward to more of these in the coming weeks! Another expectation that I have for the summer (which has already come true) is that I will make mistakes. I know mistakes are part of any learning process, though they are far from my favorite part. I also hope to create strong relationships with the people in my lab. Finally, I expect to continue the research I begin this summer during the school year, and feel very grateful to be able to spend a concentrated amount of time in the lab.