This was the last official week of the senior project, and this will be the last weekly update for this blog. I will still be working on my project beyond the scope of the senior project at BASIS, but since this is an important milestone, this week I will write about my experience as a whole and what I learned from it.
This project and the internship that I have has been one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I knew that I enjoyed scientific research before this, but this whole experience has really taught me what science is, why we do it, and how to do it.
I started off this project not really knowing what I wanted to do, and so I was really lucky to find a lab where I could help on and take ownership of a real research topic. I was excited to work on any project, but I’ve become quite attached to the crazy Frankenstein stuff that I’ve been able to do over the past 12 weeks.
In the past, I’ve gained some experience doing lab work and learned some useful lab skills, but this was the first time I have been fully immersed in a biological wet lab, and thus I did learn a huge amount about lab techniques and lab work. There is a lot of skill and precision required in doing experiments, and I definitely learned the importance of doing things the right way.
But more importantly than that, I’ve learned that even with all the precision and skill required to perform precise experiments, research is really driven by curiosity, creativity, and an open imagination. I’ve realized that science is not the straightforward method that we learned in school, where we have clear, falsifiable hypothesis that can be rigorously tested, rather it’s a pretty messy process where ideas come from anywhere and always end up somewhere completely different.
I’ve also learned the sheer breadth and depth of research topics, even just in a single department: while our lab is focused on using the best and most expensive imaging techniques to learn about life, the lab right next door is trying to engineer cheap tools for budding biologists in third world countries. I’ve worked in labs with fossils, eels, and worms, and each time I felt like I barely scratched the surface of what I was looking at. This is actually really encouraging, because I know I will always be able to find somethings to study and be curious about.
This project has at times been frustrating and slow-paced, and I’ve experienced lots of set-backs, as is expected in research, but I’ve really found something I love to do.
If you would like to see what comes out of my project, I will write a short research report that I will upload to the blog and will be presenting with the rest of the senior projects on May 23.
Finally, I’d like to thank my BASIS advisor, Dr. Sharma, my mentors at the Wang Lab, Chew and Professor Wang, Ms. Belcher for all the work she’s done for all of the senior projects, and everyone else who helped.