Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Things I've Learned Along the Way

Time was ticking by so quickly as my lab partner and I furiously typed away on our shared Google Slides document. We struggled to submit the Protein Engineering Summary in on time. The closer the deadline approached, the more problems we seemed to encounter along the way. We somehow managed to dodge every bullet, pull everything together and finally turn it in. After this close encounter, I realized that there were a few things that had to be improved.  

1. Don't leave everything to the very last minute.

It seems obvious right? As students, there is one disease which most of us have suffered from at some point in our academic lives. Early signs include avoiding any work at all costs or mindlessly wasting time on Facebook. Symptoms include lack of sleep, stress, and getting into panic mode at 3 AM.  Name of disease:

Procrastination is the little green monster that I can always see coming from a mile away but never do anything to avoid. For the Protein Engineering Summary, I procrastinated way too much. My partner and I discussed what we would write about, how we would configure each slide, and ensuring that all the information would get onto the report without actually starting anything until the very end. This was a huge mistake because, of course, it took way longer than we thought it would. 

2. Don't be overconfident. 

When it comes to scientific writing, I would like to think I have a lot of practice from writing grant proposals, abstracts, and full scientific reports. However, I greatly underestimated the amount of work that went into the Protein Engineering Summary. My lab partner and I both have extensive laboratory experience and often breeze through lab with minimal pitfalls. IN the lab, we are essentially a match made in heaven - we work efficiently and smoothly together and also get along great!

Thus, we felt that we could get into the assignment fairly easily. However, because of the unique structure of the report (for example, writing in bullets instead of sentences) there was a lot of additional formatting and laying out text and figures that we found we spent more time with formatting and figuring out how things could fit on the slides than actually thinking about making the report flow with the desirable "hourglass" configuration. 

3. Take advantage of office hours. 

This one kind of follows the previous two concepts. Because we left everything to the end and felt so overconfident with the report, we basically didn't have time to go to office hours. However, for the revision we both took advantage of office hours and I realize just how amazing it was! It was extremely helpful to have someone there to ask questions to in real time - plus there was food! Office hours are something I would like to start going to regularly, simply because it's always a good idea to get some feedback before turning in an assignment and any last minute questions can be addressed. 


All in all, the Protein Engineering Summary could have been much improved had I not left everything to the last minute, been too overconfident, and gone to office hours. These valuable lessons not only apply to 20.109 (though I will definitely be incorporating them into my future assignments), but also to life and work in general. Get things done early, don't underestimate the difficulty of situations (take them for face value and prepare instead), and don't be afraid to ask for help. 

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