Demystifying the Research Process

This summer has been a whirlwind of highs (presenting my poster to faculty at Duke!) and lows (running incorrect models and wasting two whole days), but through it all my biggest takeaway is this: real people do research. It sounds so obvious– of course real people do research… But to me, it wasn’t.

In my mind, I thought that research was probably dominated by a bunch of uninteresting people with nothing to talk about but their gene or disease or phenomenon of interest. A sea of meaningless acronyms and esoteric vocabulary, perhaps, but not real people.

What I found, though, couldn’t have been more different. Obviously, people at the Alberts Lab are incredibly dedicated to our research, and accomplished, and distinguished. But, besides their academic and professional pursuits, they are still people with families and personal lives and pets. We are incredibly productive at the lab, but dogs are still welcome. We talk about specific oddities of baboon behavior and Dr. Alberts’ daughter’s dance recital.

For me, this atmosphere was incredibly reassuring. One of my biggest worries about pursuing research as a career was that it would be hard to find and make meaningful connections with others who were just as interested in science as I was but still enjoyed non-lab activities.

In fact, it’s just the reason I’ve decided to stay with my lab; I need the balance that the Alberts lab provides. I’ve also learned that I enjoy explaining research and presenting my findings to others who are genuinely interested in it. While I wasn’t originally looking forward to the poster session (or the rain I had to walk through to get to it), it was one of my favorite parts of the program. If I had to sum it up, I think I would say that I’ve learned that research might just be for me.

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