This summer, I will be working as an undergraduate research assistant for the U of M Med School Department of Human Genetics. Though I’ve been working here for almost four semesters prior to this summer, this is the first time I will be working more than ten hours a week. I will be spending more time in the lab than I ever have. I am excited for this experience because it will give me the opportunity to start my own research and hopefully begin writing and presenting on my scientific discoveries. However, I am anxious about a number of things in regards to this experience.
As an undergraduate, I always work under the grad students. For the most part, I help out with their projects and assist with things that need to be cleaned or organized in the lab. This summer, I was hoping to begin my own project. However, I fear that I will not be able to do that this summer. And if I can’t accomplish that this summer, I may very well not be able to get published in my undergraduate career. Though being published isn’t my only goal for working in the lab, it was something I aspired to do even as a high schooler. The opportunity of a publication one day is definitely something that my internship this summer could push me closer to, but if I don’t accomplish any of my own work, I fear it will be out of reach.
Additionally, I constantly fear that I will make a huge mistake and will ruin my reputation in the lab. I know I am an undergraduate and it is characteristic of undergraduates to make mistakes. But I still fear making them. I add the wrong media, and all my cells die. I spend hours on a DNA prep and accidentally add the wrong reagent and ruin it. I spill something and clean it up the wrong way. I ruin a project someone has been working on for weeks. I am afraid of this more than anything, and I know one of these is bound to happen this summer. In fact, I’ve made mistakes such as these previously in my time working in the lab- yet, I am STILL afraid and anxious to come to work because of these potential mistakes I could make.
So, let me end this post on a positive. My goal this summer isn’t to not make any mistakes, or even make less mistakes. My goal isn’t to discover something that is publication worthy. No, my goal for working in the lab this summer is to simply become more confident in my mistakes, my work, and myself. To be truly proud of what I do here and to realize that I am not the only one who makes mistakes. Though I do want to accomplish a lot this summer, I want to work on myself the most. I want to work on being the best I can be, knowing that my mistakes are part of who I am.