There’s a beautiful laser-cut wood art piece hanging in the lobby of the Co-Lab entitled “I’m Just Here for the Pizza,” inspired by “the moments in life when we go to an unfamiliar place for a certain reason, and we end up with a completely unexpected and nurturing experience.”
When I first stepped foot in the lab eight weeks ago, I knew I was in for an exciting ride. It has, and continues to be, a “completely unexpected and nurturing experience.” Although I’ve certainly enjoyed learning the basics of working in the lab, be it using a pipette or running a gel, my favorite part of this summer has been learning how to think. I’ve learned that research requires a unique approach to thinking, a different attitude and a certain humility. The ways in which I am challenged to think in the lab are distinct from the ways I am challenged on, say, a math test or a chemistry problem set. While the challenges I encounter on a homework problem or a lab write-up can usually be solved by a quick trip to office hours, I love that challenges in the lab often have no easy answer. Inherent in the nature of research is the idea of not knowing–of standing at the frontiers of what is known and pushing until the boundary moves.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the ways in which my lab experience has affected my daily life. As I read more and more about the extent of plastic pollution, I find myself packing wooden utensils and a reusable grocery bag in my backpack as often as I can remember. Instead of dumping dirty plastic containers in the trash, I try to make the effort to rinse and recycle them. While my efforts are just a drop in the ocean, I think that learning about the plastics issue has pushed me to be a better citizen of Planet Earth. In a culture that values efficiency and saving time, I have learned that the “inconvenience” of washing utensils and containers for reuse is, indeed, worth my time. I think this lesson has been as valuable to me as any lesson I’ve learned at the bench.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the people who nurtured my experience this summer. I am so thankful to have had wonderful mentors who have guided me as I’ve stumbled along, whether by training me at the bench, teaching me to think critically, or inspiring me with their enthusiasm. I will always be grateful to my lab mentors and the BSURF program for giving me a chance and supporting my summer experience. I’m excited to be continuing in the lab for the rest of the summer and into the school year. Challenges await, but adventure is calling! I couldn’t be more thrilled.