Tuesday, April 19, 2016

We are all scientists doing real science.

I was working on my Mod 2 report at a café when a woman sat down behind me.  As she reached over to plug­ in her laptop, she pointed at my laptop screen (on the right, the Word doc of my report; on the left, about ten tabs of the class Wiki page open and an Excel spreadsheet of all the flow cytometry data).  “Are you a scientist?” she asked me.

Me? A scientist? Oh no, I’m just a 20.109 student trying to write the Mod 2 report.  In a rush of panic to reply to this stranger, I said, “Oh, haha, no…I’m just a college student.”  She smiled, “Oh, I see ‘NHEJ’ on your screen…I’m a scientist.”  To which I replied… “Wow! That’s really cool!”

After I went back to my work and she went back to hers, I reflected upon the conversation, thinking about all the things I could have said and shouldn’t have said (like most socially awkward people do). 

Here’s a list of the possible things I could have said:
  1. Oh, haha, no…I’m just a college student…but I’m studying biological engineering so maybe in a few years, I will be a scientist!
  2. Oh, hahah, I’m a college student but I am a scientist!  This report is about studying the effect of an NHEJ inhibitor on NHEJ repair efficiency…
  3. Wow!  That’s really cool!  What kind of research are you doing?

As I continued to think about our conversation, the more I realized that I am a scientist, and that everyone in 20.109 is a scientist as well.  In most research, many experiments are done to answer an experimental question and so, a lot of data is obtained.  Unlike Mod 1, where there was a clear structure for the report and a clear direction of where to go with the data (our modified Ca2+ sensor simply decreased affinity and cooperativity), Mod 2 had so much data I didn’t know where to start.  In real science, all the experiments do not lead to expected results and there isn’t always one clear conclusion to draw from all the data.  For one, the Loperamide drug dosage assay showed that Loperamide had no effect on M059K cell survival.  How was I going to include data that didn’t agree with previous studies done on Loperamide?  Secondly, there were so many possibilities of what to compare with the flow cytometry data.  Should I compare the differences between NHEJ repair of double stranded break ends or the differences between NHEJ repair of M059K and M059J?  How do I also include Loperamide without going into too many directions? 

Putting the data into a coherent story and writing the Mod 2 report has taught me that you do not need a professional title to do real science and to be a scientist.  In 20.109, we are taught to ask our own experimental questions, interpret our own data, and acknowledge that unexpected results are valuable as well.  The next time someone asks me if I am a scientist, I will definitely say yes.

No comments:

Post a Comment