Tips & Tricks

New Researchers Beware: Learning Curve Ahead

For almost everyone, research turns out to be more complicated, and take more effort to gain skills and accomplish the objectives of a project than anticipated. So, if you struggle to learn a technique, or you don’t immediately understand a concept your research mentor explains, remind yourself that such challenges are to be expected.

Tip #10 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect to Resent the Return of the Fall Term

Wrapping up a full-time summer research experience is exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. But sometime during the first few weeks of the fall semester, a harsh reality will become evident: You don’t have as much time for research. Not near enough time. What would have taken you part of a morning to do in the summer, will now take a week or more to complete. Those long blocks of summer research time will have evaporated along with your increased productivity.

Tip #9 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect to Feel Like a Scientist

Arguably, this is the best part of an epic summer research experience.

After a summer of long hours dedicated to making a contribution to science and overcoming challenges in the lab, you’ll finally feel like a real scientist.

Tip #8 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Personal Growth

When you spend the better part of a summer engaged in full-time research you’re bound to experience substantial personal growth. Perhaps you’ll refine your critical thinking or organizational skills. Maybe you’ll develop a sense of self-reliance or self-discipline that you didn’t know was missing.

Tip #7 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Unsupportive Friends

One of the amazing things about participating in research full-time is the in-depth, experiential learning and focus you’ll enjoy in the lab. You’ll loose track of time, the day of the week, and occasionally even the month.

If your friends are spending the summer working through a Netflix bucket list, they won’t understand your commitment to the lab, your research project, and your future. Some might continually remind you about their relaxing summer, and compare it to the work-intensive one you’re experiencing. Stay the course.

Tip #6 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Stronger Connections with Labmates

Spending more time in the lab during a summer experience brings opportunities to do more than move a project ahead faster or learn techniques too complicated for the regular term. More hours in the lab also means more in-depth conversations that go beyond the topics typically discussed with labmates and mentors during the semester.

Tip #5 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Hofstadter’s Law

Basically, this law states that, “it always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” New and seasoned researchers alike find that this reflects the true realities of bench work (and writing, and coding, and library research and pretty much everything else that is research related).

Tip #4 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Elation

There is nothing better than getting a punishingly difficult technique to work, or coming up with the next research question after interpreting a result.

An in-depth summer research experience will give you the luxury of time to think about strategies and perhaps the time to test several. It might be so exciting that you’ll have difficulty sleeping some nights even when you’re soooo tired from working all day.

Tip #3 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Frustration

Being in the lab five days a week for several hours each day will certainly help you meet your research objectives faster than during the semester. However, at some point your project will likely hit a wall. You might need solve a technical error, be stuck trying to optimize a fickle procedure, or need to dig deeper into the scientific literature and reconsider your strategy.

Tip #2 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Greater Rewards

Spending your summer doing research full-time? Expect to gain greater rewards than a regular semester experience.

More time in the lab means more opportunities to take a greater role in planning and conducting experiments, collecting data, and analyzing results.

You might have the option of working on an independent project as the “student PI” with all the responsibilities and rewards that accompany the title.

Additional hours in the lab will also lead to more opportunities to learn, contribute, and become an integral member of the research team.

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