I hate making mistakes.

  • Forgetting to add DNA
  • Confusing test tubes (adding #1 tot the new one labeled #3 etc)
  • Adding the wrong amount of… DNA, medium, enzyme, you name it…)
  • Selecting the wrong settings for the… PCR machine, power source for gels/blots, heat blocks
  • Tipping over fragile things
  • …..

I do try really hard, I write out all the steps, think things through, but somehow, stupid mistakes continue to happen. Usually, they can easily be fixed but sometimes they result in having to throw out all of the experiment and starting all over…

I’ve put a lot of thought into ‘WHY?!!!!!!!!’ I think the answer is really simple, actually: I wasn’t trained to do this. Where students of the life sciences get lots of lab time, I haven’t spent more than 20 hours in a lab. All experiments were completely prepared – we didn’t have to do dilutions or OD-measurements, we just ‘put stuff together’. They did try to make us understand what was happening but, usually, these explanations were really boring and it wasn’t on the test anyway. True, I did choose this internship myself because I thought I liked doing things in the lab.

I do. I think it is really interesting and it is awesome to ‘mess around with DNA’. However, when almost everything that can go wrong goes wrong due to an oversight on your part… it isn’t so much fun anymore. It’s completely different from medical-type things, where you also need to work systematically and carefully. You need to think about everything in advance – decisions on the spot usually have disasterous consequences.

The point is – I’m trying really hard. Asking lots of questions, asking for verification. Some things do finally go well. Yet I’m getting more and more frustrated that these mistakes actually happen, that I still work rather slowly (stress / lack of time really is the ideal disaster recipe…).

Would I like a career in research? I don’t think so. The thought that this will be coming to an end really comforts me. I do like digging for answers in cells, but, apparently, medical students in the Netherlands really aren’t made for this.



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