By: Dennis Portillo
As the third week of the CIRM/SPARK program nears its end, the days that have passed have almost been a blur. The routine work of being in a lab has now been established, but still each day a little bit different than the previous. That statement sums up the lives of most scientists, who do not follow the standard procedure of simply working five days a week and taking holidays off. The life of a researcher, in particular, is not one that is necessarily easy, rather but be a journey of ups and downs, sprinkled in with blood, sweat, and tears (just not in the experiment hopefully). From this week, the task of being a researcher goes far and beyond more than just the occupation in its name, with experiments at times taking longer hours than most are accustomed to, and any mishap having the possibility of setting it back experiments. Perhaps learning this lesson in itself is more memorable than any sort of hands-on bench work, or anything that could be attained from an experiment. Talking with my mentors this week has helped me realize that there is more to the questions of simply why and how, using these to stem into other more valuable questions as well as accepting the fact that experiments are not as straightforward as one may think. While it may take a few minutes to a few hours for all the procedures to be done if lucky, it takes much longer to even analyze what has been done and gained from it.
While the past two weeks have mostly consisted of collecting and analyzing data, it has something that I’ve come to enjoy. For many, the summertime has become one of relaxing and enjoying, but the same is not necessarily true for scientists. Earlier in the week, I was discussing how many are eager to go into the field, yet not prepared for much of what they have to give up, with sometimes the future exchanged little in success. While saying this is by no means an effort to be cynical, it gives hindsight to have a realistic point of view and how the main motivation as to why you get up in the morning and power through the day being passion and drive. Perhaps a few cups of coffee may also do the trick but that’s not the point. For many scientists, their work is their everything, and even if the original hypothesis may turn out wrong, or the data provide very little, many falls in love with their work (and rightfully so). So, while counting cells and looking at neurons under the microscope may be some notable highlights of the week, the real takeaways that come from this week are the ones that stay with you forever. As cliché as that may sound, there is more to researching than pipetting and extracting RNA-I say this because it has been big this week but rather it is a lifestyle for many individuals.