May 25th, 2015
In the previous week, I have learned many new lab techniques. I have learned how to cast a polyacrylamide gel, how to calibrate a real-time PCR machine, and how to split a population of cells into several new populations. All of these techniques are integral to vascular research – truly, they are the foundation. As I shadowed my mentors and learned these skills, however, I realized that there is a much deeper principle holding each of the laboratory processes together. It was only today that I realized what it is.
The conclusion I came to is this: you cannot expect to succeed in research unless you are willing to be vulnerable. This is an unstated truth that I am beginning to understand as I dive deeper into the world of biomedical research. There are many points in the experimental process where you can make an error. Therefore, there is an expectation that you will make an error (apprehension), and an outcome should you make the error (guilt). Both emotions make us feel vulnerable.
The importance of vulnerability is that it motivates us to connect and to share our feelings with others. Communicating errors or apprehensions about laboratory techniques is absolutely crucial. This leads us to an important consideration: questions must not only be asked when one is curious, but also when one is vulnerable. The challenge therein becomes one of inertia – asking the question requires pushing past boundaries of self-doubt and understanding that you cannot learn unless you are instructed.
My mentor told me even before the program started that I should always ask questions. Truly, the scientific method (of which we all intrinsically subscribe to) is based on the principle of inquiry. Ask, and you cannot be wrong. Asking when vulnerable and communicating my thoughts clearly are two skills that I did not set out to learn, but that I am learning as part of the research process.
While research is the main focus of the STAR program, the secondary focus is to build a community among like-minded and highly motivated students of science. I can say, without doubt, that I have made some of the most wonderful friends within the past week. All of us come from vastly different regions and backgrounds, and represent a wide spectrum of talents and personalities. My roommate, Kevin Assoumou, has been an absolute joy.
The STAR group (myself included) have bonded incredibly well. We have gone out for dinners (and prepared them in the dorm), traveled to parks and lakes, and have spent hours watching films within the comfort of our residence hall. The selections have been a hodgepodge, from Saw to Harry Potter, the latter of which has been an important connection for all of us. We have played volleyball, gotten sunburned (my poor feet), and gotten into
trouble interesting situations! The feeling of community that I have with my fellow STARs is enormous.
The first week has been promising, and I am happy to call Augusta home (if only for the next eight weeks). Next week, I will post a lengthier entry with more detail re: lab experience. I will be beginning my experiments this week and will have more to report then.
Now, time for bed. Goodnight!