I’m suffering from a mild case of the imposter syndrome right now. It’s normal to feel such things considering my situation, but it still sucks. Tuesday I began my first lab rotation for grad school. In the biological sciences you typically rotate through three different labs that you pick during your first year. It’s only part-time because you’re taking classes at the same time, but it’s done so you can develop an idea of what labs, people, techniques, etc. you like. Then, at the end of the first year you pick one of those labs to become associated with and that is where you will develop and complete your thesis project.
The lab rotation I’m doing is anomalous due to a “perfect storm” sort of circumstances. First, I live in the city where I’m going to grad school, I have nothing to do since being laid off, I have a few years of previous experience (making me a little more valuable in the lab), and I have the whole summer to work. This means that instead of a part-time, 8 week stint in a lab where you would only get a taste of the research and techniques I get to spend three months in a lab working full time. That’s enough time to successfully complete a small scale project from start to finish (maybe two if everything goes well).
The PI (Primary Investigator) paired me with one of his MD/PhD students who is a great guy and has taught me more in the past week than I have learned in the past two years at my old job. It’s crazy, I actually have to use my brain again. That typically wouldn’t be bad, but after not having to use it for the past two years it’s slow to come back. And I also know very little about the techniques commonly used in the lab, though I’m catching on quickly since I have a fair amount of background knowledge and a little bit of common sense. All in all I think this will be a great experience after I get over my feelings of inadequacy.
Now I should get back to reading the pile of papers I have in front of me so I can further understand what the lab is doing (currently slogging through a 15 pager they just had published in JNeurosci… fun stuff).
List of things to become good at in the next week:
1. Cell cultures
2. Mouse brain dissections
4. Getting back on the qPCR bandwagon…