It’s been a busy week. I can’t believe we are already at the start of another one. So time goes.
I spent last weekend with Scott in Florida.
I had a milestone birthday (which initially I was not so stoked about, but thanks to all heartfelt birthday wishes and cake, I accept now).
I picked up Scott at the airport Saturday and do not have to return him until next Thursday (back-to-back weekends with my honey – woo-hoo).
And … drumroll please …
I did some science – and enjoyed it.
Even better – I have nice clean data and interesting results.
I had forgotten this feeling. The absolute high of a successful experiment. I mean, really, I can’t stop smiling. I am so utterly tickled. This is why I went into science.
I’ve struggled this past year to settle into a new project, which I’ve discussed before. If anything it has completely validated the advice I would always give to first year grad students, but could not fully appreciate until now.
You have to love what you do.
For a while now, I haven’t loved what I was doing. I didn’t know if it was because I was in a new lab, away from my significant other, friends and family. I didn’t know if it was because I was burnt out from finishing my PhD. I didn’t know if it was because I was trying to learn how to approach science in a fundamentally different way than I was trained to. I didn’t know if it was because I just didn’t like biology any more.
I didn’t know this is just what being a post-doc was about – the lack of cohesive community in which you must elbow your way into the life of the lab, the floor, the department. It’s hard, and I even considered myself lucky to be in a place with a seasoned post-doc and another who had started the week before I did. And now, almost a year later, and a new post-doc who just started, I am realizing that I have, slowly, over time, made myself a place in this new institution and lab.
It also turns out, that what I love is being able to articulate a relevant biological question and be able to answer it. I love experiments that are designed to give you an answer: If you get W result it suggests X, if you get Y result it suggests Z … I like to be able to think through an entire experiment and anticipate what I might end up with. Even if I am surprised by what I see, I want to be able to conclude something, because the experiment should be designed well.
I am finally returning to that approach to science and it feels fantastic. This is what I am good at. I am using my “bench” hands again and generating data. Data that I find really interesting and exciting. I had forgotten how capable my “bench” hands were. I thought I was pushing myself by turning my back on wet lab experiments and exploring computational approaches to biology. I realized that moving to such an extreme without any transition was a very bad idea. I wasn’t good at it nor did I enjoy it.
I am 30 now, and much smarter. I am back in the lab and generating beautiful data and yet it is still unknown territory for me. Genome-wide datasets and hundreds of different isolates. I still need the computer to tackle all the analysis. But I think it is a perfect compromise and I am happier at work than I have been in a very, very long time.
Plus there is the added bonus that I get to label my DNA pink and blue (and when mixed together become purple)!
I am glad that science and I have patched things up. I have a conference next week that I am speaking at. My science charm will be laid down pretty thick and I am really excited (whereas six months ago I wasn’t) about being surrounded by biologists who are interested in the same kinds of things I am. My newly found enthusiasm for science and biology couldn’t come at a better time.