We’re sitting in a classroom in French. It’s 9 in the morning. With coffee and nervousness in our veins, we’re listening to Dr. Grunwald as he discusses what is to come in the next eight weeks. “Science isn’t just moving colorless liquids from one tube to the next.” Dr. Grunwald continued, “Science is about communication. Collaboration. Integrity.” And with that, he releases us to go to our labs.
I expect a lot.
This summer I’ll be working in Dr. Adcock’s lab in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, with my mentor being grad student Abby Hsiung. Her current project is on curiosity, examining how the human urge to close an information gap can be modulated by factors such as engagement, uncertainty, and complexity. With my raison d’être being effective positive impact, it’s incredibly exciting to see where our research could be applied—education, memory, and so on.
Even before I began, I expected a couple things: to get lost in the literature, to get mixed up while reading code, and to ask a lot of questions. These all came true. After a week of reading more background literature, getting access to the testing room, training on the ethics of human research, and marginally increasing my data science skills, I felt more comfortable—getting used to the rhythm of the lab environment as well as mentally accustoming to the workflow. I was able to come up with a project that incorporated my own specific aims, building off of Abby’s work. She helped me streamline my thoughts and build a more cohesive plan for an experiment, and next week, I’ll present my proposal at our lab meeting. That both thrills me and terrifies me, but that’s research—leaping into the unknown to discover an answer, or more likely, discover more questions to propel even more thinking.
I expect to run into some problems throughout the summer, such as realizing I left out some critical component during my first trial or forgetting to manipulate some important variable during data analysis. But I also expect to learn a lot. To be taken by surprise. To make sense of my data. To fail. To get back up. And in the greater context of things, to find out if research is for me. To find out why science isn’t just benchwork or lines of code. To realize what Dr. Grunwald meant by communication, collaboration, and integrity.
I expect a lot. While it’s unknown whether or not these expectations will be fulfilled this summer, well—that’s research in itself! And like research, I’ll find an answer. But if I’m left with further questions, I expect that I’ll find even more meaning in it.