Why do I love research?

After a week or so of failed experiments, I ask myself – why do I love research? Why do I keep doing it?

Because science is cool.

Really. It is.

What I love so much about my job is the being given the ability and opportunity to discover something about a cell, or about the brain, or about a particular disease, which no one in the world knows, or has ever known before.

It might be the tiniest, potentially most insignificant piece of information, but that doesn’t matter to me – I found it. I discovered it. And that’s awesome!

Towards the end of my PhD, I discovered that this is where the difference lies between those who want to carry on doing research, and those who are sick of it – I’ll explain further:

Research is hard. Most of the time, what you are doing won’t give any results. You can slog away for hours, days, months in the lab, and still not getting what you’re after.

(Now, I don’t mean not getting the result that you want, I mean any result! New experiments need practising, optimising, preparation, collaborations with other labs etc, all of which take time and usually don’t work on initial attempts.)

I’ve observed that the difference in enthusiasm for research lies in the response not only to these tricky (some would say horrendous/soul destroying) periods, but to when the experiment works following the previous failure.  For those who don’t want to stay in research, these small successes aren’t worth the hassle, and don’t counteract the months of torment.

For those who stay, it’s worth it.

No matter how small or trivial the result may be, the buzz you get from finding it is worth everything it took to get there. An enduring curiosity, drive and passion keep you going, because you just want to know the answer – probably to an arbitrary question you’ve asked yourself.

But it still matters. It’s still worth it.

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