Now that the summer is over, I can start to evaluate the progress that I made on my research project over the summer. First of all, I definitely did not get as much finished as I thought I would, but after talking to other researches that stayed for the summer, I don’t think I’m the only one. Even though I didn’t do as much as I had hoped, this summer was definitely a great experience and I feel like I learned so much. It was nice to be able to focus solely on my research project for a couple of months, as compared to having to juggle it with my other classes during the school year. The experience definitely gave me a new perspective on research in general. I am starting to appreciate just how slow science can be. Between doing the background research, finding procedures that work for your experiment, and getting a large sample size it can take a while. But it’s definitely worth it!
Being in Williamsburg for two months this summer was definitely much different than it is during the school year. For starters, it’s much hotter, which is no fun. But there also seems to be much less stress around campus. Everyone is able to move at a slower pace because there are no exams to study for or club meetings to attend. As the fall semester is starting to get into full swing, I’m starting to miss the summer atmosphere. I am definitely enjoying my classes and other activities I’m doing this semester, but it was so nice to be able to have no stresses after 5 or 6 pm when I left the lab for the day. But I must admit that it’s nice having the dining halls and the gym open for longer hours and now that everyone is back on campus, there is definitely more energy and excitement on campus.
Okay, so the summer session is technically more than halfway over, but on Friday my lab had our halfway-done meeting. We all prepared a power point to summarize our projects and the data we had collected so far this summer, and then gave a presentation to the lab. It provided the perfect opportunity to stop and think about what I had accomplished so far this summer and what I had left to do.
Last Wednesday, the biology department had another lunch time seminar open to anyone in the department. This time, it was run by my PI, Dr. Wawersik, who spoke to us about transmitted and epifluoresence microscopy. Initially I wasn’t sure how much I was going to learn. I have used transmitted light microscopes numerous times and we use epifluoresence in the lab almost everyday, so I know the basics of both types of microscopy. However, I have never had a formal introduction to how microscopy actually works, so I learned a ton over the hour session. One of the things that surprised me the most about compound microscopes is just how complicated each objective lens is (which explains why the lenses are so expensive). Each lens works to correct various aberrations, such as chromatic aberrations that arise because different colors of light have different frequencies and therefore are refracted at different angles through the lens. We also talked about resolution and which lenses provide the best resolution for different purposes. I can now actually understand each part of a label on an objective lens!
Last Wednesday was the second of a two part series of a discussion on the ethics in science. Everyone in the biology department was invited to the seminars, which were led by Professor Heideman. Before the discussion, everyone read On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research from the National Academies of Sciences Press. The reading discussed different facets of the ethics involved in science from the perspective of a scientist responsibility to the public. The essay argues that society and the public trust to attempt to make discoveries about the world that are both unbiased and accurate. Breaking this trust is not only dishonest, but also could potentially have a negative effect on the relationship between society and science as a whole. During the discussions, we discussed various scenarios that we, as undergraduates involved in research, might encounter at any point in our careers.