Friday, July 27, 2007

Final Thoughts on Research

Well, the summer program finished today. The perks of this experience are still obvious and although the research itself really didn’t grab me, I couldn’t have been happier doing anything else this summer. I got out into the city several months in advance, got my place pretty much set up all the way, got used to the hustle/bustle of living in the city, got to know my way around the dental school, met several of my soon to be classmates as well as faculty members, the list goes on. Not to mention that I was paid 3k for doing something I probably would have tried for free.

So enough about the clear advantages to any summer integration, what about the actual research? Well, my project got plenty of results – however they were nowhere near the original hypothesis. Such is the nature of research. Let me simplify things further. Here are the pros:
-Laid back
-Flexible hours
-Get left alone for the most part by ‘the man’
-Working on something to better human understanding of health and the body
-Actually applying 4 years of biology trivia into something cohesive
-Use nifty technology

Now on to the cons:
-Rather unorganized
-Nobody respects other people’s property/space
-Nobody picks up after themselves
-Easy to lose your box in the freezer when other lackeys rummage around and misplace things
-monotonous as hell
-easy to make untraceable mistakes
-lab politics

OK. So after eight weeks of running PCR after PCR, what do I have? Not much – a simple ‘further investigation required’ will suffice. I have the beginnings or even hints to possible significance in a few figures, but overall nada. All of my work is pretty much just preliminary data for other projects now so it is unlikely I will be pursuing or getting mentioned towards any publications. I didn’t expect to get any though, so it is hard to be disappointed.

Nothing was conclusive, but this is also the way research is supposed to go. I’m glad I didn’t get a sugar-coated, everything-works-out-in-the-end version this summer. Otherwise I might have been more inclined to pursue the PhD. Ultimately, I just don’t have the ‘it’ factor to go into research full-time. I would love to help out in the lab over the next four years whenever I can, but I don’t see myself putting research in front of everything else. It is just too final of a decision; one I am not willing to make at this stage in my budding career.

The lab I worked in was great, aside from a few weirdoes; the people were extremely nice and great to work around. If I could contribute to future research done in this lab, I would be thrilled. Realistically though, I doubt I will have time unless I can naturally manhandle dental school (yea..right).

Nonetheless, research was something I wanted to experience while in dental school. It is great that I was able to do it before class even started. And while I still have to present this research at clinic and research day next February, I have gotten the majority of the work done already. It’s Just a matter of refining and rewriting everything so that it makes sense to the brainy scientific community.

I know UIC isn’t the only dental school that offers a summer research program or any program for that matter to incoming students. I mentioned way back that I could retract my encouragement for these deals at any point during the next 8 weeks. Well, eight weeks have gone by, and I stand by the early statement. Get out there if you have the chance. It is a great experience and will really ease the transition that is sure to rock the foundations of your life.