You love success? I love failure.

Here at UCSB, particularly for some Pre-Biology major students, fear plus stress on top of uneasiness can be verbally induced in vivo by simply mentioning the phrase “ready for your second year as a pre-bio student?”

It turns out it actually isn’t that bad.

As my second year as a pre-biology student is coming to an end, there have certainly been times where I had to work extra hard to maintain a good balance in all my involvements. However, I believe all the challenges presented and hard work I have put in will make me better at whatever I am doing. Although I am still at the beginning stage of my personal development, I feel like I have learned quite a bit this past year.

I believe we as individuals and students are constantly learning some sort of “life lesson.” It can be about effective time management, relationship building, so on and so forth. For me, one of the most meaningful lessons is to not take failures too personally but instead learn from them. These failures can originate from almost anywhere. An ignorant mistake when running a lab experiment that requires a start-over all the way from the very beginning. Unanimous rejection from all my applications for summer programs. These events certainly cause sad faces and gloomy days, but I try not to let them swell in my mind, as it would only worsen the situation.

These failures, however, are just like coins – there are two sides. While one side oftentimes represents frustration, the other side represents the “good things” about failures. They can be the lessons one should take away and not let the failures repeat themselves. In fact, I believe the more successful a person is, the more failures he/she will have experienced. Interestingly, there have been faculty members at several universities that created their “CV of Failures,” showcasing all the rejections they received in the past. To me, these CV’s do not simply serve to make these professors famous (although Professor Haushofer from Princeton University did list down a “meta-failure” on his CV of Failure as “2016: This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work”), but instead, they carry an important message. When I see people getting awards or read papers published by others, I inevitably get drawn into their “success” and question ourselves, “why do they/their experiments look so perfect, but mine don’t?”

Indeed, these people were able to make significant contributions and be recognized for them. However, the truth of the matter is, almost all of them have failed many many more times than I have. Without these failures, the success would not be as meaningful. In fact, without these failures, one might not even arrive at the success at all.

So next time if I mess up the results from an experiment I am running, instead of thinking I am a super idiot, complete failure and totally worthless, I should tell myself I might have gotten myself one step closer to the answer I have been searching for.

Say Goodbye to Procrastimonster!

To start off, who wouldn’t want there to be 25 hours in a day, 8 days in a week, or even 6 weeks in a month. However, we all know it’s impossible, or else why would I even want to write about it?

We all live a busy life, but we never regret it. Why? Because we love what we do!

Still, sometimes you get frustrated because of too many things all demanding your time and energy at the same time. We are all human and we all get tired at some point and this is where the art of balancing and time managing skills comes in.

Even if I personally haven’t finished my undergrad studies yet, I think one of the things that we learn in college (and actually take away with us after graduation) is how to manage time wisely. We only got so little time and so much we want to do, it becomes imperative that we fully utilize every moment we have.

This became more and more important to me personally as I add more things to my everyday schedule. Take research as an example, I started doing research with Dr. Foltz this past summer when I wasn’t taking any classes. I was able to go in almost every day. When fall quarter first started, everything rushed in at once, including all my classes (especially second year bio major), volunteer work as well as two jobs on top of research. At first I was a bit overwhelmed but I told myself I don’t want to quit or spend less time on any one of them because I love every single of them!

So, I would like to share a trick that I personally have found helpful, which is to create a to-do list. And it is not just a list of everything you need to, but also taking into considering of priority and deadlines. Paper or electronic is fine – there are even apps that can create a nice-looking to-do list if you are the kind of person that only do things when they are listed in a visually pleasant fashion. I personally like using a paper one simply because I enjoy the feeling of crossing off something. Reminders are also really helpful. I have had times where I would tell myself to remember to do something after class (maybe make a phone call) and it wouldn’t be until the next time I have that class where I would ask myself did I have a call that I need to make?

As to the most common symptom of procrastination, I think there is no better way than to just do it. JUST DO IT! Once you made the decision that you will do it later, you become a victim of Procrastimonster automatically.

To be able to manage time wisely is one piece of art that really takes time to master. Procrastimonster still attacks me sometimes but I think as long as we always try our best and learn from the mistakes. Similar to the idea of trials and errors, I would try some time managing tricks and if it doesn’t work, I try something else. Eventually, we know what works best for each of our own individual schedule and can really enjoy what we are doing!

Finding a Research Position as a Gaucho

A question that has probably been asked by many students, particularly undergraduate students, is “how do I find a research position?” The process of finding a lab position itself contains many important steps that identify and help you make sure the lab you are about to join matches you interests and even personalities. On the other hand, mindlessly joining a lab without considering what you really want as well as what the lab offers can really waste not only your time but also the time of the people from the lab.

The first step in this process, even before looking for potential labs, is to make sure that you know what research is about and it is something you are interested in doing. Sometimes when a person is asked why he/she wants to do research, the answer would surprisingly be, “oh, I don’t know, my friends are doing it.” Or even, “cuz’ it will look good on my resume.” This sometimes indicates that the person does not know what he/she is getting himself/herself into. Even if the person can successfully obtain a lab position at the end, chances are he/she would not be too happy about his/her time in the lab. On the other hand, it can be very rewarding if a person knows what he/she wants and successfully finds a lab that suits his/her interests and personalities. This, of course, requires some time, but the reward is very worth the effort, based on many researchers’ experience.

Next, once you find out research is something you would want to spend time on, whether it is because you have talked to researchers or if you have had certain background or reasons, the next thing is to identify your interests and connect with faculties that are doing the research you are interested about. This can be done either through looking up the professors’ websites or discussing the research topics with the professors directly. Oftentimes talking to the professors directly can be more helpful because of a couple reasons. One is because the website might not always reflect the most up-to-date, accurate information. In fact, if you even want to start your own independent project, talking to the professor is always more useful. Another reason is that even the website might be able to offer a lot of information, having a direct communication with the professor might be more helpful since there are many things that online information cannot offer. For example, what if you find out you actually don’t enjoy having chats with this particular professor after all? However, this is also another reason why you should talk to the professors even if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes you might end up liking the professor so much that you change your mind

There are still many things that can be discussed about when it comes to finding yourself a lab position. However, I think the most important thing is to do what you love. If you don’t like something, don’t do it (even if all of your friends are doing it). Being persistent is also crucial (but not overly persistent – you don’t want to find yourself making enemies with professors.) Lastly, let your passion guide you and you will enjoy whatever it is that you are doing.

Research Is More than Just Research: A Three-Week-Old Reflection

Thanks to the EUREKA program as well as my faculty advisor Dr. Kathy Foltz, I have been more than lucky to begin doing research as early as a first-year student at UCSB. I cannot deny the fact that research has taught me more than what I expected.

I agree with people who say that we learn things the fastest, and oftentimes unnoticed, when we enjoy the process of learning them. It has merely been three weeks into the research program as I begin to reveal what research really is about. I could be incorrect to make judgements now since I am barely even close to the surface of doing research. However, I believe one reason that we do research is because we want to and love to. Research is oftentimes about answering all those questions we have in our mind. Why this? Why that? In search for the answer to the questions, we do research.

Now, on our way to arriving at the answer, which we don’t even know if there is one (that’s something I find cool about research — “you never know what’s going to happen…guess we’ll have to find out!” as Dr. Foltz has remarked many times), we can encounter many things. For example, we learn so much more in addition to the answer we are looking for. From what I have heard when researchers share their experiences, these unexpected observations they learn are even more interesting than what they were originally intended to look for. Sometimes these observations become a groundbreaking research topic or a highly cited journal article.

On the other hand, there are times when researchers are not “making progress.” They just can’t get what they are hoping for. What’s even worse is that sometimes they do not even know what has gone wrong nor do they know how to fix the problem. With this being said, there is also the problem where researchers have to decide to continue or abandon their current project. While these problems can be difficult to overcome, they can sometimes be a very crucial component of research. They can be a lesson for the researchers, providing them with more experience on handling obstacles related to their research area. They can also be a warning, flagging the research project and really forcing the researchers to think if it is really worth their time and resources to proceed and if they would really obtain something significant at the end.

There is also another major part of research — the art of asking the right question. It’s all about asking the right question. If I were to compare research to a philosophical analogy, I would argue research is a journey with endless choices of what to do next and with no final destination. There are infinite questions we can ask about the world we live in, but some questions may be considered more “worthwhile” than others. In other words, some questions can be so empowering that we learn far more than we can imagine (but still enjoying the process!).

Yet, is there really the “right” question? Again, that’s something I find very intriguing about research — “I guess we’ll have to find out.”