What it takes (To Get Good Data)

There are things to be said about both “field work” and “lab work.” Doing work in bacteriophage ecology, you get a taste of both. I can say that going outside to collect samples is hard, sweaty work (especially in the throes of Williamsburg swamp summer). To avoid the dangers (to me, that means ticks for the most part. *shudders*), you can work in a nice air-conditioned lab room, but you have to trade out seeing the sun. Either way, we all know that there is SO much more going on behind the scenes than what is neatly summed up in the “Methods” section of a journal article.

 

A picture of my lab partner and I processing the sediment sample of the retention pond. Here, we’re forcing mud through a sieve, and yes, it smells as bad as it looks

A picture of my lab partner and I processing the sediment sample of the retention pond. Here, we’re forcing mud through a sieve, and yes, it smells as bad as it looks

 

One of the things I sort of struggled with as a freshman trying to do research on campus is that, as a kid, when you first see the “wonders of science” it’s a glamorized view. You hear of the work of people who win Nobel prizes and others who are immortalized in textbooks. You never really hear of the long, hard, often tedious labor that goes into getting those mind-blowing results. As an adult conducting this experiment, my view has changed. I’ve learned to appreciate the work that goes into a single data point and take more pride in the robustness of those results. It may not be glamorous, but it’s still very exciting in its own way.