Update: I *might* have just figured out what I'm supposed to be doing, i.e. what is expected of me in the Lynn lab, in clear language. *crossfingers* So far, this has been very difficult for me to determine for some reason. I like things to be clear. More later.
Update 2: Maybe ... and maybe not. *headdesk* When I don't understand something, I try understand why. Being confused, trying to resolve it, and philosophizing about why I'm confused ties my head in knots. The problem is, I have to understand what I'm doing and why BEFORE I can do anything. I think maybe, since Dr. Lynn always says to develop one's own metholodology, I'll just give up on understanding what he wants, what the Lynn lab people think I should do (which all seems to conflict slightly), and just focus on what I would do and what makes sense to me. Then, I can work. It's just ... I really WISH I could understand how exactly Dr. Lynn operates. I just don't know if I ever will. This is exceedingly frustrating. I'm probably thinking too hard. Why doesn't it just make sense to me, like it seems to for other people? Maybe other people aren't thinking about it this hard? Nah. It just seems to make sense to them. I feel like, I'm thinking on a completely alternate wavelength somehow, that has destructive interference with Dr. Lynn/other people's thinking, or in some other way conflicts. Grr. Yes. It seems to make sense on the surface, but when you get down to it - it doesn't. I'm in that frustrated mood again. I think ... I think I'll just do what makes sense to me. >:|
Upate 3: AhhH!H! Wait, wait!! Maybe I get it! MAYBE I SEE!! AHH! Phew. I feel a bit better. More later.
Resolving My Confusion about Dr. Lynn's Methods
So: I think I've reconciled Dr. Lynn's style with my way of thinking or see where they intersect, at long last! *looks around startled* Let's hope this isn't yet another false start.
I'm not sure why I find these things confusing or even why I get so hung up over it, but ... there it is. I feel like, I have to see things spelled out very obviously, in literal fashion, before I can figure anything out and it's infuriating, because I feel dumb - maybe that's not true - but I don't know - I think it IS.
A few points to recap how I got to this point, and an attempt to convey my thought process, as to why I find things confusing.
1. Dr. Lynn emphasizes thinking and coming up with one's own ideas. I have no problem with this. In fact, I INSIST upon it.
2. He also emphasizes asking why questions - especially, when one says that one prefers to have projects with applications.
3. Then he tells me to think of a project idea, talk to people in the lab and talk to him.
Thus: I did this. And he says he likes my ideas and doesn't really say anything else he wants me to do, except I get the impression from people in the lab, rotation students who have been in the lab and people outside of the lab - basically - everybody - that I should be working on refining my ideas.
Confusion #1: Unfortunately, I wasn't sure what exactly I was to refine my ideas to. How refined is refined? What exactly am I working toward? Experiments I can perform? That didn't seem likely. So.... This was my thinking.
Confusion #2: My other hang up is related to why questions. If you're asking why questions and basing experiments off of them, there's no definitive goal to define or focus your research. It's an extremely diffuse way of doing something. That made no sense to me either.
SO: I came up with ideas I could work on, but then was at a loss at what exactly I should be doing. I felt like, until I cleared up this philosophical issue, I wouldn’t know where I was going.
I talked to Rolando about this and within thirty minutes he had explained it to me in a way I could understand. I thought about it, reorganized what he said, and repeated it to him to make sure. I have now also talked to Kathryn about it and she thinks what I said is accurate, so hopefully, I’m not just blowing smoke.
Conclusion: Basically, it seems that Dr. Lynn does not want to hinder people’s work by asking why questions and doing research that has no focus. That’s not the point at all. He wants students to come up with their own project, design one hypothesis-driven question that they can answer, and understand why answering that question is important – why they should even answer that question and not another one. In THAT sense – he IS goal-driven, and this is in fact – in my opinion – the best way to do research – you always have to know why you’re doing what you’re doing – otherwise, why do it?
He asks why questions as branching off points from this main line of thinking, in order to stimulate new thought, in order to make people think in new ways about what they are doing and about their experiments and design better experiments – not to force them to do diffuse research.
THIS MAKES SENSE!
It’s just his way of presenting his reasoning that is extremely confusing. Actually, what he wants is exactly what I already want. I cannot tell you what a relief that this is to me. Now that I know this, I feel as if I have tremendous reassurance and more confidence in myself. I’m not completely wrong in my research philosophy – I might not be perfect, no – but I’m not way off in outer space. Dr. Lynn doesn’t have an alien way of thinking I can’t understand – just a very confusing and abstract way of saying it. I already do what he approves of. He probably doesn’t hate me and think that I’m a horrible thinker. Understanding this is good. It means I have a basis of understanding Dr. Lynn and don’t have to be afraid of him and his questions because now I know where he’s coming from. It’s an incredible relief.
From what I’ve seen, what the people in the Lynn lab do isn’t terrible different from what I do – they don’t necessarily read more papers than I do, or even spend more time thinking than I do. Thus, I have been trying to figure out what it was that was different in the characteristics of his lab that Dr. Lynn seemed to be so insistent upon. I just found it and it’s simple. Dr. Lynn just wants to make sure his students are designing their own work – a question, with understanding about why they are doing it. Fair enough. I do that already. I don’t need to be in his lab to do that. I can do that anywhere. Khalid is also a proponent of students taking charge of their projects. I see no conflict here. I’m not inferior for my choice. I feel liberated to do research the way I always intended and it’s not a bad thing. I understand, on a basic level. I feel like, having resolved this issue, I can join the Salaita lab without worrying that I’m missing anything. It turns out, I’m not. I do hope to continue to refine my understanding and make it better all the time.
The people in the Salaita lab, in my opinion, are more focused. Perhaps not all of them want to immediately jump in and attempt to think completely on their own when they start. They have that choice. However, those who want to do so can do so at their leisure. No one is forced to do anything one particular way. It’s each grad student’s choice to be how they want to be. And, ultimately, it always will be their choice. No one can force it on you. You have to take charge of your own thinking, your own education and push yourself to excel on some level, if you want to really improve.
I feel as if, for those students not inclined to do that up front, Khalid does push them to think harder than the others, similar to what Dr. Lynn does, because, that’s what they need. He’s not ultimately that different from him when it comes down to it. It’s just the appearance that’s different. The core is similar.
And, because I am me, and I am biased toward Khalid, I have to say, that I think he’s ultimately the better teacher. However, I do think I have logical reasons for thinking this way. Dr. Lynn only really has one style – one method – one way of teaching. And, it does not fit everyone. It certainly does not fit me. Despite there not being a conflict with his philosophy, I wouldn’t enjoy being his student. His lab isn’t my style. It’s too diffuse. Too abstract. Khalid has the gift of changing his teaching style to match each student. Multiple people have told me this and I’ve observed it in how he interacts with his grad students and other people. Dr. Lynn only has one way of interacting with all his students that I’ve seen. I’m not even sure he’s capable of changing it or that he’d see the value of doing so. Thus, there are some people I think, who just will never fit perfectly in his lab. He does not fit people. He makes them fit him.
And, somewhat counter-intuitively, a more guided approach early on may, in fact, be what some people need to develop faster on their own. Without that, a student may indeed develop "more organically" and find their own way - but also run a HUGE risk of unnecessarily wasting valuable time getting there and endangering his entire career. The best learning method isn't really always trial and error, just like experience isn't the only way to learn. It's guided learning, like someone holding the hand of a toddler, until they can walk on their own. This is what Khalid does, tailored to the student. This is the best approach.
That is my opinion. I reserve the right to be wrong. However, everything I’ve seen so far points in these directions and I’m very confident in my conclusion so far. I think Khalid has the potential to become the best mentor that Emory has. I think, in fact, the Lord might be so shaping him for just such a role. And I will continue to pray to that end, to see it happen.
I will recapitulate my conclusion of Dr. Lynn’s philosophy to him as the acid test and see if in fact, I am understanding his views correctly. Rolando, Alisandra and Kathryn say that I’m about right. So that’s encouraging. And they say everyone is confused when they start, not just me. Working through confusion is perhaps a good thing, as it helps one understand and develop how one sees research – but on another level – wouldn’t it be better to just explain it in a way that makes sense up front? Ah well – that’s a philosophical point that doesn’t bear investigating at present.
Tuesday: things that happened
Discussions with Hyun Min
Hyun Min came and he and I went to the Social Security place again and got his paperwork fixed up. We talked about lots of things randomly on the way there, while there and back.
1. We talked more about the Weinert proposal
2. I talked to him about Scripture versions some, since he asked about what I was reading on my phone
3. We talked about biological research stuff
4. We got on the topic of super heroes, then playing computer games and playing World of Warcraft. (He was surprised I used to play.) We talked about aspects of the game and what we did in it.
5. I told him about the Old Republic MMO.
6. We talked about Star Trek and since he only watched Into Darkness, I explained about all the TV series, how long each one was, when it was and what their timelines were in years, related to each other in the show.
7. We talked about Star Wars and he reminded me he'd never seen it. This has to be FIXED, I told him, again. One weekend, after this semester, he needs to watch them.
While we were waiting in the line, I read two articles about Cas9 in Nature Methods. I think Nature Methods is my favorite journal right now. I like a lot of journals. But I really like all the Nature Journals and Nature Methods is hard to beat.
We had lunch at the hospital and then realized it was four minutes to class. I said we should run but Hyun Min didn’t want to. I ran anyway – and looked back – and he ran after me! I thought this was extremely funny. We had a merry chase back to chemistry. But then we wasted all our gained time waiting for the elevator. Dumb elevator. So I went up the stairs, Ace took the elevator and we got to the door at exactly the same time, which was also extremely funny.
Afternoon Attempting to Print Stuff and Rolando
After class, I talked to Keon and Morgan for a bit.
Then I went to the Lynn lab and attempted to print out articles, but that was a challenge. Couldn’t get my computer hooked up, Rolando’s wouldn’t work, but Fish’s worked. Rolando helped me stack and staple my articles.
Rolando has his faults, but I respect him for his seeming to read a fair amount of literature. And he’s good at teaching other students things. He’s always surrounded by multiple undergrads, teaching them. He helps whenever I need it.
I noticed him in the picture of one of the Salaita lab posters and immediately surmised some things about him, based upon other things I’d heard. I’m not surprised. Rolando is a huge character and not the most respectful person. He likes to make fun of people and tease them. This does not bother me though if it’s directed at me – I can’t take him seriously. He often likes to comment that I’ll get excited by anything.
I think he’ll make a good scientist someday, once he rounds out some things. He reminds me of my biophysics professor at UGA. He had a beard and came to class every day in shorts, Hawaiian shirts and sandals. He talked to us about how to do the least amount of work possible and still pass the class and we didn’t really need to read the textbook. I didn’t like him much at the time. I wondered *very* much how he ever became a scientist – he just didn’t seem the scientist type of personality. And yet, I discovered later, he’s one of the leading experts on mass spec, has won many awards and helped write some serious data analyzing software. So, you can’t judge every book by its cover. Everyone is valuable and has different talents. We need all types in science. If all of us were the same, we’d be in trouble.
I finally got to read some articles that day, which was great. Most of the articles from the Lynn lab on peptides are relatively short (3-6 pgs). Getting to read silently was soothing after so much talking.
Visiting Salaita Lab to Say Hi
Then finally, around 6 p.m. I decided to go visit the Salaita lab. I listened to Yang and Kevin talk about his walker particles. I looked for Yuan, didn’t find her, but left her a note with a smiley and hearts, telling her I wanted to be in lab meeting but couldn’t and I missed her and not to worry, because I was coming back and was always thinking of everyone here – just in case she worried. I hadn’t seen her in a while, so I wanted to make sure she’s not worrying.
Then I went and found Kornelia to see when her 2nd year report was and if I could do anything to help her not be stressed. She said – oh – when is the date of my DEATH? And that I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t think so. But, I’ll pray. A lot. I can do that. She said – Jessica, I’m glad you came up here, because I wanted to tell you – DON’T ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS! I said ok, I wouldn’t for her sake. I’d ask her things afterward. Or maybe beforehand. I’m glad she said that. I *might* have asked one otherwise.
I talked to Kevin some more. Then I went home. I felt sad about missing lab meeting. But, John and I got things packed nicely and had a relaxing evening together – that more than made up for it, I’d say. I’m glad we actually got to relax!
More Nonsense with John
I was typing the beginning of this note and John was arguing something nonsensical, and finally ended it by saying, “Well, you’re just full of cantankerous dodecahedronal nonagons!”
Me: […] *pause in mid-type**turns* […] Whaaat?? (He was giving me this mock challenging face.)
John: cantankerous dodecahedronal nonagons!
Me: How do you spell that? Where did you HEAR that phrase?
John: Everyone knows it.
This just spawned a ridiculous discussion. It’s complete nonsense …. which amuses me intensely. John was in a good mood. It was great to see him in such a great mood.
Wednesday: things that happened
On Wednesday, we had our last day of lecture in bioorganic class – which is incredibly hard for me to believe. I ate at Rise and Dine for lunch – veggie omelet and a croissant – so good, so good.
I was able to talk to Kathryn a while about the computational paper. She has some background in computational. I hadn’t read it all and it was really actually quite interesting when I did. I’m glad she motivated me to read it by asking me if I wanted to talk about it.
We didn’t have seminar or lab meeting this Wednesday, so I just did literature searches all day and collected papers. I had figured out from my discussions with Rolando, Alisandra and Kathryn, as part of my conclusion about Dr. Lynn’s research philosophy, that the big thing I’m currently missing is that I need more context to connect my ideas with the literature. I have absolutely no background in nanotechnology literature so it’s going to take me a bit to get orientated, unfortunately. I’m giving it my best shot. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anywhere near as much as I should have.
Getting Coffee with Yue
Around 5 p.m., I went to get coffee with Yue. She’s wanted to buy me a coffee for a while for helping her with the florescent instrument in Rollins. I have been so busy I haven’t had a lot of time, and then I kept forgetting, but when I saw her on Tuesday, I told her that Wednesday was a good day.
So, we went to Ink and Elm, because I’d never *really* been there. I don’t know – I’m not sure how many coffee selections they have or not – it didn’t seem like very many to me. I got their seasonal coffee and we also got some cheese and crackers. I looked at the dinner menu but it was more expensive than I wanted to pay and the portions aren’t large – not that I eat much – but still. It didn’t seem a good value to me.
Yue likes to talk and I was feeling tired, but I made an effort to discuss amicably anyway. She talked about lots of philosophical discussions about science and how it was changing and how the numbers of basic questions that could be answered by science were shrinking. It was kind of an interesting discussion. In the end, she said I was a very optimistic person. She said that she enjoyed talking with me and I rather enjoyed the discussion as well. I’m amazed she seems to like to talk to me so much.
More Random Philosophical Thoughts
I got back to my office in the Lynn lab and no one was there. I sighed contentedly and just wrote for a while. It helped me relax and feel better.
I’ve been thinking a lot randomly lately if I’ve maintained my introvert status or if I’ve become some kind of introvert/extrovert hybrid. Introverts are said to make their own energy, gain it in silent activities and spend it on social interactions. Extroverts are said to gain energy from other people and social interactions.
After giving it serious thought, I don’t think I’ve changed. I still need to take breaks from talking to people. It is strange though. For my favorite people to be around, that rule doesn’t seem to always apply and I actually do seem to gain energy from them, which was why I was debating this in the first place. It probably does still apply – just in a drastically decreased form, or something. The Lord has changed me a serious lot from how I used to be. These days, I actually enjoy talking to people most of the time, unless I’m getting tired. However, I don’t like very long inefficient conversations or conversation for its own sake – unless it’s with someone I exceptionally like. Ha ha – Dr. Lynn’s conversations are the epitome of very long, inefficient conversations.
The Papers Mix Up
I got home at 8:30 p.m. but realized I didn't have my stack of papers that included all my orgo TA student assignments to grade - two week’s worth. I thought I had put them in my car, but noooo. I thought maybe I left them on my car and they scattered in the wind when I left, but Yuan confirmed for me that this was not the case. I realized they were in the bathroom - that I'd left them there. So, I had to drive back to Emory and pick them up. Got home at 10:17 p.m. I was very happy it only took 1 hr 15 min. And the Lord was good. The whole time this happened, I didn't panic at all. I had perfect peace about it. I knew the Lord would resolve it. But now, I am REALLY tired.