Monday, March 28, 2016

A Few Lessons Learned After Writing my Protein Engineering Summary....

The hardest element for me to complete in my protein engineering summary was probably my results and interpretation section. At first I was concerned with making sure that my graphs and pictures looked nice and presentable to any reader. I played a lot with settings such as fonts and brightness levels in MATLAB and Microsoft word. That wasn’t too bad though. It was also easy to type in the changes in the KD values observed and what that told us about the affinities and cooperativities that we measured. However, the actual difficult part for me was setting my limits and evaluating my own work afterwards. A few of the questions I had popping all over my mind after writing my first draft of the results and interpretations were: Should I also include this Micro BCA test we performed? Did that add anything to my analysis, or was it worth including over my SDS-PAGE image? Was I being repetitive or verbose in my interpretations? Did I include too many of my methods in this bullet point? Did I do too little or too much in the captions….


After one eternity you might expect things to have finally sorted out. No, not in my world. My second major concern was then making sure that my interpretation and results were in a coherent order that focused on my main story for this summary.  I caught myself at times including information that seemed to be telling multiple stories in some crazy order. Near the end of my second eternity working on the summary though, things looked much better- just like this house:


Lessons Learned

After reflecting on these eternities and my progress at the end of them, I now know how imperative it is to sit down and do some more planning before actually writing this section. For my Module 2 report, it will be a good idea to first write down my main message to serve as a reminder of what I am trying to convey to my audience little by little through each section.  Always reminding myself of my report’s take-home message would have also helped me to organize my information in a more coherent and focused manner rather than having to revise substantially after my first draft of the section.

When I am deciding what data and tests are relevant to include in my paper, I should consider:
A)      How well these pieces of information complement (or don’t complement) each other
B)      Whether or not the information I am about to include was mentioned in some other way before
This approach would have saved me a lot of time was well. For example, rather than doing extra calculations to include my Micro BCA results alongside my SDS-PAGE, I could have realized beforehand that it wasn’t necessary to include both of these results right next to each other in my summary.

Lastly, it would probably be a good idea to put myself in the shoes of the reader trying to learn more about my research. This would have helped me to realize earlier if some of the methods and descriptions I was trying to include throughout my summary were actually necessary to help my reader understand my main points. This can also be connected to my previous point about including two tests that may be conveying the same information. Would the reader really appreciate reading the same conclusion twice? In many cases, we can agree that the more the merrier:


But at times, less is more.

Another thing I definitely learned is that if you ever feel unsure about what conclusions can be drawn from any procedures you performed in lab, or if you aren’t sure if the information you are about to include in your report is superfluous, never hesitate to ask the 20.109 faculty for feedback- these awesome people are actually there to help us!

Better planning will hopefully allow me to write my results and interpretations in my Module 2 report  more efficiently, and to spend more time on making other aspects of that report the best that they can be. I hope that you will also learn from my lessons, and spend fewer eternities to complete your 20.109 reports in the future.  

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