I’ve Only Just Begun

For the past eight weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to be a scientist. Or, at least, I’ve had the opportunity to feel like a scientist. And if I had to say just one thing about that feeling, it would be this: I want more.

I had two main objectives coming into this program. First and foremost, I wanted to confirm my desire to pursue science as a career. Secondly, I wanted to get my foot in the door so that, should I find that this is indeed what I want to do, I would be well positioned to dive in. This program, I am happy to report, has helped me to achieve both objectives.

Before this program, I could not have told you exactly why I want to pursue science. And, in fact, as I discovered during a conversation with my fellow fellow (I’ve waited eight weeks to say that), Azeb, I still can’t. But as I’ve thought about that question, I’ve realized that asking it is like asking why I like the taste of lasagna. Why do I like lasagna? Because I do.

Now, I can tell you why I want to pursue science: it both satisfies me intellectually and fulfills my desire to contribute. Let me elaborate.

A spark of excitement flared in my mind when I remembered each morning that I was on my way to lab. I found myself looking forward to the endless procedural tasks that waited for my at my bench even though I knew full-well that I was going to mess up at least a couple times while trying to tackle them. It didn’t seem to matter if I was doing my third gel-extraction of the day (which I admit was my least favorite procedure) or gathering flow cytometry data on the gene expression levels produced by a new set of plasmids that I made the day before (which I thought was the most exciting step), the spark never left. Of course, it wasn’t always sunshine and buttercups. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting around until 9:00 pm for a digest only to find that it failed utterly. But even in that moment, after a few brief moments of melodramatic woe-is-me, I felt reinvigorated by the prospect of retrying it the next day. Why? Because I do.

Now, as I hinted earlier, there’s more to my wanting to continue to research than just my liking it.  While working in the lab, evaluating data with my mentor, attending lab meetings, and reading as much literature as humanly possible during the fifteen-minute intervals between procedural steps, I felt myself part of the scientific world, a participant in the ongoing exchange, accumulation, and distribution of constantly new information. For me, though a neophyte I am, this was fulfilling and rewarding.

In my eyes, that is the about as best a confirmation as I can hope for.

Thanks to this program (at least for now): mission success!

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