The main thing I wish I’d known when starting this internship was less something I didn’t know and more something I wish I’d understood. As a student studying science, we’re often told to write down our observations during lab courses, and sometimes we’re even given a list of specific things we should be including in our descriptions. However, lab courses typically have a coursepack or a lab notebook of some kind that includes all of the materials and procedures that you do, and students usually conduct experiments that have already been done many times. In a research setting, you must write down everything that is important without knowing exactly what that will be when you look at your results. Even the smallest thing might turn out to be a source of error or explain confusing results.
If someone were to do an internship like mine, I’d tell them to write everything down, not hesitate to ask questions (no matter how silly they might seem), get to know your labmates, and finally, to learn how to fail. That might sound a little strange, but as I’ve written about previously, there will be a lot of failed experiments and troubleshooting. None of my experiments in my last week succeeded. I know now that it’s just a fact of research and that you can re-evaluate your approach and try again.