When presented with the opportunity to experience full-time research for the first time, expectations run wild. My excitement leads to visions of me in a lab coat conducting successful experiments every day and makes it difficult for me to ground my expectations in reality. Clearly no Nobel Prizes will be won this summer; I will not suddenly become the perfect scientist, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be running many experiments by myself. This summer is about learning, about growing, and about experiences that will mold my undergraduate career.
One of my more realistic expectations is to learn. After my first week in lab I truly believe that if I entered sleepwalking I would still manage to learn something. Learning in lab is different from learning in lecture in ways that you must experience. I didn’t learn where the mouse amygdala is by looking at a lecture slide; I saw the mouse amygdala! There’s nothing more exciting for me than getting to experience science by doing science and witnessing other talented people do science. My primary expectation this summer is that I will learn about neuroanatomy, the neuroscience of psychiatric disorders, and learn ways to properly use animal models to study models of human psychiatric disorders.
My scariest expectation is my expectation that I will grow (not literally) and change due to my participation in this summer program. For the first time, I get to try on my scientist hat and participate in real scientific questions and discoveries. I get to think of myself as a growing, learning researcher and discover all that that entails. I expect to grow in my knowledge of what it means to be a scientist. Do I like working in a lab? Do I like working with animal models? Do I fit in with my lab’s culture? Do I even genuinely like neuroscience or do I find more interest in a project conducted by one of my peers in this program? I hope to have answers to these questions by the end of the summer, and because of answering these questions I hope to grow.