Lab Troubles, Conference Application, and Summer School (almost)

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Hey all 🙂

The last few months have been busy in a good way though there have been some low points. The big thing I’ve taken from it, however, is the emotional interaction I’ve had with my experiences and it is that which I am focusing on today.

Lab Troubles

Stuff goes wrong in science, it just does. The proverbial “shit happens” and we just have to deal with that. Recently, I had some issues in the lab which I had to troubleshoot and long story short it was a mix of shit happens and me doing less well than I could. This left me having lost the samples for one experiment and a lot of frustration and anxiety. So shit happens, right? Well yeah but it still doesn’t feel great. I’ve still lost a decent chunk of my potential data to add to my story. The probable ‘me’ bit in the problem is also troubling as I don’t really have an excuse for it. At least when things screw up beyond your control you can at least say as such and then discuss what you expected to find and how that would have related to your other findings. I can still do this, sure, but knowing I may have also screwed up takes some of that clarity away.

Anyway, I shan’t linger on the negative. What I’ve learned from this is to take challenges are something to work on to improve myself and to make the best of what I have available to me. The data is gone but I still have a lot left to process/measure. This is good. I have a lot of data across my experiments and the lost piece from one experiment is still there in the other. When I see the big picture of how it all fits together I will be able to make a better prediction of what the missing data would have shown. Lastly, this is all part of it, right? We give things a go, work out what could have been better, work to overcome the obstacle, and get better at what we do. This was an unfortunate mishap but the bigger picture moves forward and so do I.

Conference Application

I’ve applied to present at my second international conference! Whoop! Mini-mexican wave in celebration of me (kudos to those who get that reference). You may be wondering why I am celebrating my second application. Well…last year, in Portugal, I did present my data but there are two caveats to that. Firstly, I’ve re-analysed the data (with my developing stats skills) and have now drawn alternative conclusions. Secondly, that presentation was a poster and this is a talk. Posters are good. They give you the chance to stand and have a decent conversation with people and really talk through your research. But a talk is when you get a focused audience, possibly there to specifically see people in your area of work. This is rather exciting because I’ll get my 15 mins to stand up and tell my story (and then be grilling by the, hopefully nice, audience). The other reason why I’m excited is that I’m finally at that stage in my PhD where I’m getting to grips with the process and having my own bit of story to tell. The whole picture isn’t there yet but I have threads of data which fit together nicely and that is what I am hoping to present come august. The conference is the European Conference on Behavioural Biology. A get together of people with interest in the biology of behaviour from a variety of perspectives. There are also a few people I hope to meet and make connections with there too which is a great opportunity to start getting on the trail for the next job!

Summer School

I have been invited back to teach the summer school program I worked on last year! I’m so excited. I’ve been planning the improvements to my program for a while and now am starting to get a solid grasp on what I’m going to do. Still a few tweaks, of course, but it is all coming together and will hopefully be much better than last year. I did a lot of learning as i went last year, in terms of what can be done in the time etc. This time I have a better idea of the timing and layout of the whole program, what went down well, and what was missing from last year so am able to be better prepared going into it. No doubt my students will still overturn this and I’ll be thinking on my feet again. Just hopefully less so than last year!

The emotional side of this comes in two flavours: anxious-excitement and…discomfort (i guess…). Firstly, the anxious-excitement. I find the whole idea of teaching a program exciting and as someone who aims to be in education in one capacity or another it is an amazing opportunity. With that comes the anxiety of be the person responsible for ensuring the enjoyment and fulfilment of a small clutch of enthusiastic students. What if I suck? What if the program sucks? What if they don’t care? The last thing I want is disappointment. My care for education drives an equal worry that it’ll go bad. I should point out here that this is not in light of the fees paid on behalf of the students, but simply a purely educational perspective.

Secondly, though, speaking of fees: discomfort, sort of…I recently received my new contract and was astonished by my salary for the program. I have never been paid a lot for doing anything. Tutoring in the university is paid well but you never see that as a big lump sum as it is sporadic. I find this difficult to process because, despite my separating financial worth from things, I don’t see what I offer as being worth that much. It is an odd sense of discomfort as I am somebody who believes that educators are quite possibly the most important roles in society. Under most systems, that would suggest they be the highest paid. This came at quite a serendipitous time as the following tweet sparked an almighty conversation online which I highly recommend you read:

I’d never really thought about this before as I have done my best to consider myself class-independent but reading through the numerous thoughts I found myself relating all too much. On paper, I’m from a pretty evenly split conservative-middle and labour-working class set of families but with a whole heap of complications in my upbringing to make things less typical. Part of that may play into my discomfort with being valued in money (never mind at the level I have been). It’s not a bad thing, of course, and the money is going to go towards savings, a trip away, and charity. It is just something I have to become comfortable with, which I will…hopefully haha.

So that’s me for the last two months. The next two will involving finishing some lab work, starting to write some papers, and teaching my summer school!

Thanks for reading 🙂

BCT

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