I have been in my lab for a week now. Since I am just getting started, I have been spending a lot of time reading scientific papers about autophagy. While I am not a huge fan of sitting and reading papers (I’d rather be doing experiments!), I know it is important to have adequate background knowledge about a field. Scientists need to keep up with the latest publications in their area of research so that they know what has already been found and what questions remain to be answered. For example, a PhD student in the lab gave me some papers to read about a molecule called glutathione, which is thought to play a role in autophagy in yeast. It hasn’t been investigated very throughly, though. She thinks, and I agree, that it could be a really interesting project for me to pursue. So now I am focusing more on the available literature that connects glutathione and autophagy.
Starting an entirely new project is difficult, though. I have to get approval from my PI (Primary Investigator-the head of the lab) before I can do more than the most preliminary experiments. This means that I will have to design and perform a number of experiments that verify what has been reported in the literature-that glutathione plays a role in autophagy. If these experiments go as I expect them to, then I will have to begin to think about a specific question I want to investigate. This is a really exciting prospect, but also intimidating. But overall, I am excited by this challenge, and I know I will learn a lot about what it takes to be a scientist!