August 8, 2011

Wrapping Up

This week all that I have left to do is prepare two presentations to give the BU community and the rest of the RET participants information on just what Jared and I accomplished this summer.  I'm in the middle of setting up a poster right now, but figured I'd stop to share some random reflective thoughts.

I'm really happy that I was able to get good data on my experiment, and even happier that the data confirms our hypothesis.  I've also learned to appreciate how rare it is for that to happen, so I feel pretty lucky.  The major downside of the data story though is that we didn't collect more of it.  Mainly this was because neither Jared nor I know how to use the software which processes the data that we collected with the high-magnification IRIS.  One of the students who works in the lab did it for us on just two of our images, and he did things so quickly that we had no chance of being able to do it on our own.  In fact, while we have data which supports our hypothesis, our data isn't that convincing because we didn't collect enough of it.  Imagine people voting for president: 100 million votes are usually cast in an election, but imagine that whoever is in charge only looked at 1,000 of them before deciding who won the election.  That's what our data is like.

I'd say that the major hurdle to getting research done at first was a lack of supervision.  We were mainly working with Carlos, who was sadly also in charge of helping two other RET teams.  He ended up not having a ton of time for us at first, so we didn't really start working independently in the lab until the very last week, when in fact we could have started a week earlier.  We wasted a lot of time in that first week just waiting for him to have a free moment to work with us, and that held us back.

Instead of giving you a final word, I'll end with a quote that sums up pretty much the main thing I learned this summer.

"If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."
-Thomas Alva Edison

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