Lessons Learnt: 3 Conclusions from my Summer Research Project
A reflection on my summer research project so far and the lessons I will be carrying forward with me. In conclusion: 1. Enjoy the journey, not the destination 2. It opens… and closes doors 3. Be a proud mum
My Laidlaw summer research experience got off to a slow start. As I’m sure anyone who has undergone the ethics application process can empathise – gaining ethical approval can be a gruelling process! But a few weeks into summer and with my ethics approval in hand, I was ready to get my project going. Only to run into another few bumps in the road, holding up my progress even more. At first, I didn’t let my setbacks affect me but seeing my fellow scholars’ projects develop whilst I felt stagnant began to make me feel like I was playing catch-up.
That’s when I realised my first lesson - comparison is the thief of joy. I am sure you have heard this one before. We all compare, it’s very difficult not to. Especially when comparing your life to those you see on Instagram (I want to be working from my beachside hammock too!) or how well your peers are doing in life (who can afford a four-bed house at this age?!). Sometimes comparisons can be motivating - have you ever done well in an exam only to find out your friend did much better? That kind of comparison would light a fire under me to help me close the gap next exam season. But then again, I have in the past been labelled ‘too competitive’; I am definitely the Monica Geller of the group. My conclusion from this lesson was simple. I need to stop comparing. So I did. And what a relief! When you realise you are in competition with nobody except the person you were yesterday – challenges become a lot less stressful and a lot more fun! It becomes less about completing a task to a certain standard and more about the process itself. At the risk of sounding trite: I learned to enjoy the journey, not the destination.
Further along my research journey in conversation with some fellow scholars, it was clear our opinions on how enjoyable a career in research would be, were divided. I think of myself as an extroverted-introvert and so working from home and to my own schedule suits me well. I understand, however, that sitting in front of a computer all day, working alone and to strict deadlines is not to everyone’s taste. And that is so important to know and understand about yourself. Whilst I have no idea which exact career path I would like to pursue, I have a pretty clear idea which ones I don’t want to pursue. As a chronic overthinker and sufferer of indecisiveness, sometimes it is vital to be able to eradicate certain options to allow you to focus on the right ones. So for some this research project may open doors and for others, it may close them. And both can be equally as valuable.
Have you ever made something? Knitted a sock, baked a cake, developed an app… then held it in your arms bursting with pride? That’s how I feel about my project. Your research will become your baby. And just like those eager first-time mums eventually, some people around you will tire of you talking about it. And that’s okay! From fellow scholars to professors to random people on the internet, there will always be someone willing and keen to discuss your topic of interest. If you have a true interest, and even better a passion for your research, your enthusiasm will shine through. That’s why the Laidlaw Summer Programme is such a brilliant opportunity – it isn’t often in a researchers’ career they will be given free rein to explore a topic, ANY topic, they are interested in. Research is hard but that’s also why it can be so rewarding. I can’t wait to hold my final poster in my hands. To be able to say this part is complete and to hold a tangible product of my summer's work… but at the same time I know I’ll miss the grind. It’s a tough process but just like most difficult things, it’s also extremely rewarding. So I’m going to keep boring my family and friends with all the mundane details of my project… because I’m a proud mumma.