I am currently in the last few months of my two year undergraduate research project. Without boring you too much, my research involves treating white blood cells with a drug called Rapamycin and then using various lab techniques to see how the cells survive and divide as a result. It’s pretty interesting but this past year has been a whirlwind – and not necessarily in a good way. My undergraduate research was one of my biggest challenges yet and it caused a lot of anxiety, so I thought I’d share the lessons that I’ve learned throughout the process.
Persevering and staying positive is hard
Between cell cultures being contaminated and learning that the technique I was using was incorrect, I have had many set backs and have had to start from scratch a few times throughout this process. I always thought of myself as someone who could push through these obstacles, but it is tough – tougher than I would like. Keeping a level head and looking on the bright side is more difficult than I originally thought, but it is necessary especially when conducting a long-term research project.
My friends are amazing
From visiting me during my long lab hours and celebrating data that they didn’t even understand, my friends have kept me going throughout this process and I cannot thank them enough.
Celebrate the small victories
I practically do a happy dance any time my western blots work or I get some good data. Research is a long road and if you only give yourself credit when perfect results are found, you’re in for a sad, boring time. Be proud of yourself whenever things go right and treat yourself to some ice cream when you finish your thesis draft. Small victories add up!
SMART goals help me stay efficient and feel more accomplished
As a quick reminder in case you haven’t heard of this before, SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, action-oriented, reasonable, and timely goals. Set goals that you have control over and are easier to attack. For example, rather than saying that by the end of the month you’ll have a draft of your thesis, break that assignment up into smaller SMART goals like by the end of the week, you’ll have drafted your introduction section with at least 15 references used.
Well, for all of you considering doing research or currently in the throes of it, I hope this has been helpful and good luck with the rest of your process! Make sure to enjoy it, at least a little 🙂