When I walked into my first lab meeting there seemed to be almost an unspoken hierarchy amongst the researchers in the lab. The PhD’s sat at the conference table in the center of the room, the graduate students sat in chairs along the sides of the room, and the undergraduates sat in the back. There was no seating chart; this was just the natural order of things. The lab meeting consisted of one presentation given by one researcher about the research he and his fellow PhD’s had been working on. It contained so much complex, dense material that I couldn’t even understand the entirety of the title with its acronyms and fancy scientific language. To me, this presentation was a blur of advanced terminology, intricate methods, and scientific acronyms. There were some parts I understood the general concepts of, but for the most part the research being presented was very confusing to me. I sat in my chair in the back of the room with the section of my notebook I labeled “Lab Meeting Notes” sitting on my lap completely empty, feeling ignorant, and a little discouraged. I was use to sitting in my classes and knowing what was going on while being able to give active participation. The only aspect of this research meeting I was able to participate in was the devouring of the macaroons that were provided as refreshments. Meanwhile, at the conference table the PhDs and the PI were asking questions, giving input, and collaborating with each other as well as the presenter.
As I looked around the room I saw other undergraduates looking as clueless as I was and felt a sense of comfort. I felt assured that it wasn’t just me who felt this way. I wasn’t expected to walk into the room and suddenly be an expert on someone else’s research and it completely was okay to be a little confused. Once I got over my feelings of stupidity and discouragement, I simply started to watch the PhDs collaborate and felt inspired by the way they had so much knowledge and were able to work together to come up with new ideas and solve problems. Watching them made me want to work harder, do more reading, and learn more about the other research happening in the lab. I wanted to be like the researchers sitting at the conference table and this motivated me to want to learn more. With this experience, my advice to my peers and other new first time undergraduate researchers is to not let your lack of knowledge discourage you but to instead let it motivate you to work harder. Do this and maybe one day you’ll find yourself sitting in the center of the room at the conference table at the weekly lab meetings.