Going to grad school, the most important thing I want to do is to be able to think critically and ask questions - also, to stay excited about my work. Nothing is more exciting than thinking of new ideas all the time. One professor said - always write down all your ideas and keep a list. In the beginning only 1% of them will work... but eventually, it'll be as much as 45% and you won't know what to do with them all.
Goals - After Joining a Lab
1. Become familiar with and understand the research in the lab I'm in, reading any relevant papers and asking questions. Why did they do it this way and not another way?
2. Read one paper a week minimum related to the work I'm doing.
3. Read one paper a week minimum of work in another lab. Set up a time to ask that lab questions about their paper, preferably same day and time each week or as experiments allow. Ask questions about it. Understand their thought process and the applications. Repeat this every week, looping around the chemistry department as long as I'm in school.
4. Once I finish with the chemistry department, cover the biochemistry department: read their papers, talk to them and their grad students and about what they are doing. Understand their thought process. Does it differ from chemistry's? Is there anything I can learn there? Understand their work and its applications.
5. From there, branch into biology, clinical works and/or other institutions. Understand the connections between the branches of science and how each (if so) thinks differently. Try to combine the best of everything.
1. Write down any and all ideas no matter how stupid sounding.
2. Keep a list of questions in one's mind for various fields, in case I happen to run into someone interesting to talk to and can ask.
3. Always take my nice recording pen with me, so I'll always remember what people say. Also take a notebook and paper everywhere in any case. Sometimes you have to draw and a phone just won't do.
I'm currently working toward these goals by reading papers in the labs I'm interested in and talking to them first. I'll get to the others eventually. Even P-chem.
I visited Dr. Salaita's lab yesterday for more info and to ask my questions. His research intrigues me. While there though, something dawned upon me: they don't do that much cell culture growing. In fact, they almost do none. I realized that this was shocking to me - not mentally, more ... emotionally, I guess. It's hard to describe what I felt, as I imagined doing research that didn't involve growing cultures.
For 2.5 years (if you count the summer at Emory) I have grown E.coli cells every day, almost, during my research. My life revolved around the cells - mutating them, keeping them happy, growing them, extracting protein from them or RNA or DNA or viruses or ... it never ends. To suddenly be in a lab that doesn't grow cells feels REALLY weird, like I had a leg kicked out from under me and I'm suddenly wondering what my purpose is. LOL It's the funniest thing. "I'm not growing cells ... what the crap??? Who am I and what am I doing? Am I really working?" I'm used to "growing cells" = "what I do for work" so much that it's just weird doing anything else. I think I can get over that, but it'll take some adjusting - more so than I thought. It's funny how the mind works.