Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Did You Accomplish This Week?

A few weeks ago I was jokingly asked by a friend (who has never set foot in a lab) if I had made any great discoveries that week. I had just finished confirming a genetic transformation, so I laughed and replied, "Well, I did make a new type of yeast." You may or may not consider that a bit of a stretch, but I thought it was a clever answer to an unexpected question. Apparently my exaggeration was enough to impress my friend, since I found out later that he went on to tell others about my "accomplishment." This brief interaction made me think about a couple things...

My first thoughts were about how annoying difficult it can seem to have enough things go right in a given week to really feel accomplished. You know those terrible Fridays when you look back on your week and think, "Where did it go, and why haven't I done anything?" Sure you do, we've all had them. But the question I was asking myself at that moment was "Is it unreasonable to consistently expect significant progress on a thesis project each week"? The answer obviously depends on the connotation of 'significant'. You probably won't add a line to your CV every week, and it's easy to default to a, "Well, science is hard and things go wrong," sort of attitude. The best answer I've found is a middle-of-the-road viewpoint is appropriate; I think it would be beneficial to note at least one achievement at the end of the week. This deed isn't to brag about, but to be self motivational.

I realized later that my friend was actually correct to be impressed with my statement. Not because I had done anything noteworthy, per se, but because the technique and the science behind it IS impressive. After a certain amount of time in the lab it becomes easy to lose sight of how awesome what we get to do is. You get into all of the little gritty details of thinking about the struggle of perfecting your sterile technique and ensuring that your epitubes are all properly labeled in your neatest tiny handwriting. You don't stop to consider that what you're doing. Taking traits from one organism and bestowing them on another could only be called magic a few generations ago. And there are people alive today who were born before this "mundane" task was ever done:

For a slightly more humorous perspective, watch this Jimmy Kimmel clip:

The point is, even the little things scientists do on a daily basis are awesome. My advice for this week, to myself as much as anyone, is to appreciate the opportunity you have to work in the field you do, and be sure to make the most out it.

Leave a comment below showcasing the most impressive thing you have accomplished in a week. Exaggerate at your own discretion.


1 comment:

  1. I wish your comments thing would let me post/attach pictures in the comment but I can't seem to figure it out.

    Here is what I have made:

    It's basically more art than it is science, but I still made something and learned things. I don't know if you were expecting technical achievements or not haha