Why am I so dumb?

Why am I so dumb?

This thought was ringing in my head repeatedly throughout all of first week of research… and I have to say it was draining and it made me not even want to do anything. I felt like I was so lost, useless, and unfit to be in a lab. I could not even follow simple directions that were written on paper or even do simple math calculations because that thought had consumed and drained my mind that I actually started acting like it. I think it was also fear and nerves that got to me. I was afraid of messing up that I messed up even more.

I still feel like this from time to time but not as much. But I always tell myself that this is typical of starting anything new. I am going to mess up and mess up again but I know I will be better at it the third time around. It’s important to keep this in mind if you are going to be in a lab soon. For me, it just takes a little bit of time to get used to everything and now at the end of the third week… I feel much better adjusted and feel like I am truly contributing to the progression of the research.

I have been working in Dr.Thomas Weimbs’ lab studying polycystic kidney disease using rats and mice as animal models. They are so cute! But I have learned that working with these animals is not a joke, it is actually a lot of responsibility. These animals’ lives are being sacrificed and that means you definitely do not want to mess up the experiment because their lives will have just been wasted. And believe me when I say they are really cute! And sometimes a little aggressive… In the lab, we try to make sure that everything is done in a way that inflicts the least amount of pain for these animals. But I still feel bad. Really bad for them. It definitely requires a lot of courage to work with these animals but the one thing I am glad about is gaining the experience and learning from it.

Throughout my three weeks in the lab, I have compiled a little list of tips that would have been very helpful to me if I was thinking about going into a research lab.

#1. Previous courses:

I have taken Bio lab and the introductory Bio courses but I never retained the information because I was just studying it for the finals. But this is a bad mindset. Learn the material to understand it fully, not just for the test. A lot of the stuff from those courses will need to be recalled in the lab but I found myself not being able to recall anything… which is just embarrassing and reflects badly on me.

#2. Note-Taking:

I have realized how important it is to be able to take neat and effective notes in the lab. My note taking skills are lacking but I want to improve upon them. Research is a very meticulous process and there are many details and data that need to be noted.

#3. Being proactive:

You will spend a lot of time at your postdoc’s side, learning from them, doing what they tell you, and sometimes they can not always be there to guide you… and in the lab there is a lot of downtime sometimes so it is up to you how you spend that time. You have to be proactive in finding productive things to do during those times. It is good to read papers on your research topic so you can become more familiar with it or even go over protocols.

Tselmeg Amarlkhagva

Tselmeg is a third year biology major, working as a research intern in Thomas Weimb's lab in the MCDB department.