Nothing to show


I’m coming up on the 6-month mark of my PhD research in Brisbane. And I have NOTHING to show for it. I can say that calmly now because I’ve spent a good month panicking about it already. I haven’t published any new papers. I don’t have any numbers to crunch or any points to plot. I have more holes on my coffee punch card from the cafe in our building than I have PCR gel images. And yet I’m done beating myself up about this perceived lack of achievement (or at least I flirt with the idea of being done with it, as I stare into my frothy coffee).  Because I’m starting to appreciate research for what it is, and that’s a whole lot of activity even when there appears to be nothing happening. There is a reason that research is so slow. Looking over grant proposals in the past, I often wondered how it could possibly take a group of intelligent researchers so long and so much money to study what they’ve set out to study. But six months of nothing has made it obvious to me: for every mosquito experiment that is published, there were tens or hundreds of experiments before it that didn’t get published. There were mosquito colonies established, mosquito colonies killed, mosquitoes that failed to produce eggs, failed to mate–you name it. In research there are DNA primers that don’t bind, primers that bind to themselves, primers that bind at mysterious temperatures. There are plans to do field experiments and plans that literally get rained on. Or there is a cyclone (like last week). The amazing thing is that through all of these twists that most people would find terribly annoying, researchers persist. And the cool thing is, well, I’m starting to be able to identify as one of those researchers. Granted, there’s nothing to show for it. But I guess I’m finally okay with that.


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