Week 4: What is Research??

This week I've been pushing through and trying to maintain the energy I began with, whilst beginning to properly understand what this project is really about...
Week 4: What is Research??

I have been working on the realisation that this project really is my own, this week. 

When I began this research project 4 weeks ago, I was struggling to understand the purpose of it. Being given only 6 weeks to complete practical work whilst learning all I needed to know about data presentation and analysis seemed very daunting. I was unsure what I'd be able to complete in so little time and how I'd accustom to all these new skills. To prevent becoming overwhelmed by all of this, I have found it helpful to take small steps at a time. I will roughly plan my week according to what tests I need to do, results needing to be analysed and any things outside of the project that I need to make time for. It has also helped to remind myself of a question that my supervisor Liz often asks me whenever I come to her with uncertainty about what I'm doing- 'What do you want to find out?'. Being asked this question was a big moment for me as it reminded me that this is technically my project (although pre-defined), that the Laidlaw Foundation and University of Leeds have provided resources for me to work with in order to begin to answer the bigger questions. It made me realise that I do have a purpose, this is not just a 'practice' or me working for somebody else to collect data they need (even though these aspects of it are important too).

The process of research is a much larger thing than I ever imagined before becoming a Laidlaw Scholar. My idea of scientific research a few weeks ago would've been that you go to work each day in aims of answering a big question individually within your corporation, in order to 'win big' and find the newest most exciting discovery. However, now I understand that all researchers around the world actually work together in a team, as other people's work provides questions to branch off of to be able to eventually understand a topic, such as honeybee decline due to agriculture, in the best way possible. This will allow small adjustments to be made over time to start to fix and improve the world we live in. If you do find the next groundbreaking revelation that's just a (rare) bonus. 

Now I feel okay with taking things slow, getting things wrong and that my results are often not statistically significant once being tested. Even though this project seems insignificant compared to how much time a PHD student such as Anthony, who I'm working alongside, will be spending in the lab I still know that I am contributing to data that Liz and him can use once I have left their lab. Who knows, maybe one day we won't have to worry about the chemicals we're using on our crops and my 6 weeks of research may have helped even in a tiny way to get there. 

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