Talking with Dr.Rausher during our interview he made it clear that it is easy to get discouraged in the field of research. Hurdles like competing for grants with your peers, or your experimental plants never germinating make it hard to see the finish line. No student or faculty member at Duke is immune to this. However, that does not mean you do not have a place in research, and you should always remember that there are options.
Dr. Rausher described his path to being a researcher at Duke as conventional, at least conventional for his time. Unlike now, many undergrads in the past did not get hands-on wet-lab experience. Most of Dr. Rausher’s lab experience was in the field working with insects. It is hard to imagine going to grad school without much wet-lab experience. Even starting at Duke my freshman year, I was terrified the first day of Chem Lab, especially experimenting on my own over zoom. However, Dr. Rausher said that it is all a matter of figuring out what you want to do, and then learning the skills to do it after, “The hardest part is coming up with a question that builds off known knowledge in the field, but also advances it.” In grad school, Dr. Rausher decided to make the transition to plants, mostly because they did not run away from you.
There are some downsides to working with plants though, the main one being they are kind of unpredictable ways. You can have a batch of perfectly healthy seeds never germinate, or geminate 3 weeks late. What do you do then when your data is reliant on those plants? This is how Dr. Rausher and I started talking about options. As you spend more time as a researcher, you will realize you do have options. You can try again, or if you realize the project is not feasible you can scrap it. Then, try and figure out the question with different methods. but Dr. Rausher was not just talking about your experiments he also meant in life. All of us as Duke students are good at seeing a goal and then hurdling towards it with all of our time and energy. However, Dr. Rausher encouraged me and all of us to maybe look around and see that there are other things we could be running towards. Even though many of his students started as researchers in his lab, not all of them are researchers now. Some are working in the government, some are working for farms. And all of them are working in fields where there can use the skills they gained in the lab. So when you run into hurdles one option is always getting up and trying again, but sometimes what is best for us is to look around and see what else we could be running towards.