Field of Science

Reflective Learning

The end of my project is coming up unfortunately (although I still get to stay in the lab so wo0t, not too bad) and one of the things I should probably do for my portfolio is a short 'reflective learning' sheet. i.e, What I Have Gained From This Experience.

The short answer is: A lot. I have enjoyed (almost) every minute of lab work, it's been frustrating at times, sure, but it's basically just been one hell of an awesome ride. The thing is, in my official 'reflective learning' thing I should probably focus on things of Practical Value. Various techniques and things I have picked up, information I have learned about working in a lab environment, an increased awareness of the workings of science etc.

In reality, of course, the things I've actually picked up are far vaguer and more interesting. So here is the unofficial version of what I've really got out of the whole experience. They don't tick any boxes in forms, but they are somehow a lot more important:
  • Reflexes. I've gained a whole lot more reflexes and instinctive responses, to a vaguely Pavlovian turn of the head when an alarm goes off to a vital spacial awareness of where the end of a pipette tip is.
  • What happens in a lab. Mostly washing up and cookery. The science comes in at the beginning when you write a protocol and at the end when you stare in confusion at your results. The bit in the middle is mostly cookery.
  • Organisation. Oh ghod. Probably the best thing I've got from this is the beginnings of development of a healthy paranoia about labelling things. Label and date everything, even with the useless information.
  • Small writing. I am getting very good at writing tiny labels on miniature eppindorfs.
  • Pragmatism. Sometimes experiments work. Sometimes they don't. Life is not predictable. The lab may be scientific, but the organisms damn well aren't. That's how it is. Squint at the protocol, get new equipment, shrug, and do the whole thing all over. (and if it works, you cna spin round on your chair making sqeaky noises)
  • Temporal awareness. Everything takes longer than you think. Everything.
  • Orders of magnitude. Never underestimate the ability of an order of magnitude to suddenly vanish. There is a big difference between 10 and 100, which has a tendency to disappear at crucial times.
The big thing though, the thing I've gained the most and that I won't dare write down on a reflective learning sheet in case future employers read it and snigger at me for being embarrassingly eager is that basically this project has showed me what I want my life to be like. I want to do this. I want to be in this mad, bad, crazy world of desperate funding and scrabbling for results and justifying everything. I want to live here, to gain even more paranoia about accuracy and double-checking, and to struggle through with my hideous maths skills and vaguely optimistic results reading. I was always kind of headed for lab work and practical science, it's just that suddenly I know why.

And hopefully that attitude will stay with me throughout next term, and encourage me to actually work hard :)

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