Monthly Archives: December 2012

To REsearch, or Not to REsearch

Okay, so finally I’m writing about what I do. Its really difficult to avoid writing about it, as you see, no matter how much you try otherwise, if you’re in RESEARCH, its pretty much all your life.

I’m a graduate student in biology. I do full time scientific research and live and breathe biology. I work 24*7, including holidays and weekends. Work is a continuum,  free time dictated by incubations or sleep. I dream of possible solutions to my experimental problems, have nightmares about things that could mess up the current week long experiment, and cry when I realise the last dream may actually be reality! I get happiness when one step of my standardization works, even if i’m a loooonngg way from the coveted result. Data ( at most times any crappy, inconclusive data included) is the currency of our world, we live and die to acquire it. The one with most of it, is looked upon as the King, or the Tata’s and Ambani’s of our world, people looking at them as though they are on another side of this world where flowers blossom and PI’s smile, and where YOU can Smile! ( awestruck! O_o) The one single aim/dream/goal/aspiration/desire/target/ambition or in short our raison d’être is to get  PAPERS. Not just one, but many, and in as scientifically coveted a journal as possible.

Or, Atleast that is how it is Supposed to be.

But is it really? Not quite. You will realise soon (much sooner than i did!) that i’m not an ideal science graduate student. Because unlike what is generally believed, it takes a LOT more than love for science to do research. But more on the complicated ‘what you need to be a researcher’ later.

Even if i did have the passion for science that overpowers the logical human need to ‘have a life’, the picturesque description I painted above would still be a glittering galaxy of unattainable! The reality, if I may come down to it, is a hard life, full with incessant repeat try’s of experiments that don’t seem to work, and probably never will, before you get that one piece of data that may temporarily save your life! Despite the job being a highly organised one, your life will be the perfect example of unorganized, sometimes making you wonder what are you doing with it. Not to mention the perpetual guilt you would carry around for shirking work (cause u slept an extra hour! ) and not reading enough papers and keeping up!

All this you can still deal with, after all, every job has its problems! But what I (let me go back to first person here, just to avoid generalization!) just cant deal with is the continuous emotional and personal jabs that come from your ‘bosses’. Unfortunately, whatever of the field of biology i’ve seen (and i may not have seen a lot, but i do hear additional stuff) the practice of making your life a sinful mess and making sure you cant have more than 3-4 days at a stretch without crying (read bawling) out loud for your mommy or cursing your life, is a carefully adopted strategy handed down by generations of PI’s. How the students who were once on the receiving end of this torture become the perpetrators of it one day is still beyond me. Maybe the scientists of yore were just blessed with divine skills to foresee the future and hence they came up with some fool-proof formula. But either way, i don’t think i will live to see me transitioning through that phase.

I believe a few words can say a lot, and having said quite a few already, i think i should stop. But what about the question we started with? To research, or not to research? Well, as a very intelligent former teacher of mine recently told me, that is a question only you can answer,but ten years down the line! The answer is only clear in retrospect.

Curse all these scientists of yore. They really knew what they were doing! :@