PhDs are hard. And the last couple of months of my PhD have been exceptionally challenging. A few months ago, I was in the final stages of checking my manuscript that I’d been working on for almost a year (It has since been published). I was checking through all my code to ensure that everything was working correctly and my stomach sank. I’d realised I’d forgotten to run a piece of important code – which now meant that I would need to re run all my analysis, create new figures and redo the statistics – a mammoth job on top of all my scheduled experiments. So, in today’s blog I thought I’d give you an insight into the highs and lows of scientific research – from my own perspective as a third year PhD student.
Nobody likes it when things don’t go to plan – but unfortunately a huge part of a PhD is learning to deal with uncertainty and things not always going to plan. The lows of scientific research can be incredibly hard to deal with and at times can really make you question if you’re capable – this has certainly been something that I’ve experienced over the past few years. Take the issue with the code that I mentioned – the realisation that I’d missed a step in the analysis and that I’d created all this extra work for myself was infuriating. I was so annoyed at myself and at the time I genuinely did not think I’d be able to get all the work done before Christmas, in addition to all my scheduled experiments. However, I took some time, and with the help of my amazing supervisors we worked out the issues and we got back on track. In a strange way I’m actually happy this happened – as it’s made me go and check through all my code, write better protocols for analysis and I can safely say this is something that will not happen again.
The lows of scientific research can be really hard to deal with and at times can really fuel my own imposter syndrome – but every now and again science can be truly rewarding and you can get these little glimpses of sheer joy. Even though the past couple of months have been draining and challenging I’ve had some amazing things happen. And weirdly, three amazing things happened all in one week (literally unheard of). Firstly, as a team we figured out the issues with the code and the manuscript was finally submitted to a journal. This was my first joint-first author paper that I’ve submitted and I can honestly say I’m immensely proud of myself. Writing up a research paper is no small feat – it takes hard work and determination and I’m just so pleased that we’ve been able to submit it. I know the journey for the paper has only just begun – but at least the journey has been started. The lab also had a paper accepted for publication. This paper has been on a long journey and I’m delighted for the lab to get this amazing news. And, for some very exciting personal news, my abstract was accepted and I was invited to give my first ever talk at a scientific conference! Being invited to talk about my research is so exciting, as this will be the first time, I get to present my PhD research to other scientists! Presenting your own research to others is an important part of being a PhD student – and I can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve been doing for the past three years.
Scientific research is an incredible thing to be a part of. Being a scientist, doing research that has never been done before is challenging and can be very gruelling at times. But, personally that’s why I love what I do and it’s why I’m excited to get up every day and go to work. It’s safe to say that before I started my scientific career, I had no idea what I was in for and I certainly did not know thata scientific career was full of great highs and big lows.
However, for me, the highs are amazing and certainly help fuel my motivation. But it’s the lows that are the big learning experience. It’s the lows that make me a better scientist. And as long as the highs keep me motivated enough and the lows keep being a learning experience I’ll continue on my journey as a scientist.
Beth Eyre is a PhD Student at The University of Sheffield, researching Neurovascular and cognitive function in preclinical models of Alzheimer’s disease. Beth has a background in psychology, where she gained her degree from the University of Leeds. Inside and outside the lab, Beth loves sharing her science and we are delighted to have her contributing as a regular blogger with Dementia Researcher, sharing her work and discussing her career.