Back To the Future (Doing research)
Let me open this letter by stating that you are going to be fine. All your anxiety regarding programming and meeting the expectations set by your PI and mentor were reasonable but not such a big deal, do not forget you are here to learn how to do research and not to do a revolutionary discovery (although strive for the best). Yes, this summer is the world cup and do try your best to watch it! Even though you are sitting in your laptop coding, stream it online! Believe me, that will make some of your days less stressful. Moreover, after doing your research in the lab go and play soccer, do some exercise because god knows is the only way to stay in shape.
After 6 weeks in this amazing program I got a lot to share, so listen up. My first advice is a cliché but never gets old: Ask questions from day 1! Trust me, you are going to get nervous and think that everybody knows the answer but that is not the case, research starts with a supposedly “dumb question” that in fact holds the key to interesting answers. Go to Dillon more often (your mentor, you’ll meet him soon enough) and don’t be intimated by him, everyone in the Streichan Lab is friendly and do want to see you succeed. My second advice would be to appreciate MATLAB, you are going to spend every day getting to know this good software that allows you to analyze data efficiently. Remember that coding is a process of constant failure and that it holds a lot of red messages. Don’t get discourage and always ask why, understand the whole project and why each task helps you with your overall goal this will provide motivation and a clear path to success.
But Sebastian, understand that research is a slow process. Some days you are going to be stuck in a problem for hours (and I mean hours!) and you will think that there is no solution but in fact such situation is easily solved by asking a simple question. Don’t get discourage because of this, if research were easy everyone would do it. Another tip would be to get to know the other interns! They are amazing people working on incredible stuff, talk to them, ask them questions and share ideas; literally you are with the best and brightest of UCSB so take advantage of that. Oh, don’t forget to put notification on your google calendar! God knows how many events you missed… also listen to the faculty speakers, their words of wisdom are relevant since they want to help you become a great science communicator and make your summer project compelling. Go to all the talks you can, especially, the one with Professor Carolina Arias (this one you missed and apparently it was pretty good)
My last advice, would be to not doubt yourself. I mean you are working on revolutionary stuff, you are learning fluid mechanics, tensor analysis and coding all in one summer (wow! that is hard now that I think about it) but you are smart my friend! Your progress is going to be great and dazzle everybody because you are a Gorman scholar and you were picked because you want to be challenged and science is your passion! So, take it easy and enjoy the process, don’t be afraid of failure since that is your daily diet (I wish I were kidding) remember to take a deep breath now and then and enjoy your summer.
Enjoy your days of rest before the program!
Sebastian (from the future)