As you can tell from the blog post title, I’ve run into what might have been inevitable: writer’s block. So I did some brainstorming and something that has been on my mind –> aspects of learning in the lab.
This idea actually popped up because we finally decided on a summer intern! YAY. She seems super nice and I’m really excited to meet her. As a lab we are responsible as a team for training her, and it got me reflecting on how I was taught for lab back when I was a newbie. (Actually, I still am considered a newbie in many ways..but anyways)
Getting thrown into a lab is extremely intimidating. It’s so overwhelming being surrounded with countless bottles of strange liquids, weird tools, and big machines that are stacked like skyscrapers overshadowing you. What’s even scarier? The culture of being in such an independent environment. In my case, as a high schooler, I’ve only scratched the surface of understanding biology, so following up to what my older lab mates are saying can be quite hard. Plus, with everybody else is doing their own experiments, they are super busy and don’t really have time to teach a newbie step by step. I’m actually really fortunate to have mentors that do section off blocks of their time to give me lectures about specific things, but sometimes the science part is put off to the side first for sake of time. What I mean by “science part” is that the whys behind or the explanation of each step is put aside, and doing the experiment (like pushing specific buttons, pipetting which things, etc) is done first.
Obviously, just learning how to do something isn’t the same as actually learning what exactly the purpose is. Things that I have been taught (from experience and my mentors) to overcome this: asking questions, google, and writing *good* lab notes. Sometimes while they explain things, they go past some specifics and it doesn’t really quite click, so whenever I finally ask about whatever seems ambiguous, I can see the whole picture more clearly. Asking more questions is such an overplayed piece of advice but it can’t be said enough. BUT, when my lab mentors are busy, I do sometimes have to resort to google, or looking at my past lab notes which leads me to the next thing. Writing down everything you do/concepts you learn. Oh my gosh, today I was trying to recall if I did something last week and my mind completely blanked. There are so many experiments in lab to do, that often times they just get jumbled in your brain as one. In terms of conceptual information, reinforcement through physical writing and notes do help!
I don’t really know who my audience is, but for inexperienced lab rats(??) – being in lab is a privilege and the experience is what you make of it. 😀 Also, efficient learning is important.
So yeah, that’s my spiel on learning in lab.
Tl;dr – learning in a lab environment is very different/ independent.