As the summer draws to a close I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed over the course of my internship. Professional and personal growth are such gradual processes that it’s hard to look back and simply pick out what’s different. I think this gradual growth is a good analogy to performing research and developing theories from hypotheses. To me the scientific method practically applied means spending a few days reading papers and/or reviewing your own data to track and understand a trend and its developing evidence. After you’ve been reviewing the right pieces for long enough you start to develop a hypothesis. Once you’ve created a hypothesis you have to design an experiment to test it. You then have to develop protocols for your experiment so that it can be repeated with minimal variation in the constant variables. You then perform the experiment and spend a lot of time gathering data. You then analyze the data and develop a theory. If the experiment is optimally designed, even negative data (a “failure” of the experiment) will yield meaningful results.
Traversing the scientific method is like personal growth in that it’s very easy to feel trapped in one stage of the process. Developing a hypothesis takes a long time and a diverse range of supporting information. Understanding your life stage and making decisions about what kind of lifestyle you want to cultivate requires as much mental effort as you’re willing to give. When an experiment fails or you end up less satisfied than expected with a life choice, the disappointment at wasted time and mental effort is the same.
I know that I’m never going to stop failing whether in life or science, so it’s important to have strategies for dealing with disappointment. One strategy is to always maintain a farsighted view of things. Planning for failure will let you make either outcome of an event productive. It’s also good to have patience. The results you want will take time and learning and being impatient about everything will give you a heart attack.