Saturday, February 13, 2010


I'm really starting to feel like I'm following in another student's footsteps. And I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.

It's not like we're working on the same project. And we didn't come in to the lab from the same direction or background. But we have vaguely similar skillsets, at least in the vector space defined by the skills of students in our field. (Does that make sense? Because if it does I have a feeling it's an awesome analogy. Or just really nerdy. I'm sorry, it must be the viruses talking)

The other student (let's call her Alex) is nearly done her PhD and has been free with advice on all aspects of the lab/department/student experience. And science, that too. We get along socially and people have commented that apparently I'm the replacement Alex, or that the PI must have hired me to fill the void when she graduates.

Alex has also given me some older proposals and written work from years ago (partly as an example of what not to do...) But reading the stuff over gave me a rather creepy sense of deja vu. Switch a few keywords and we could be talking about the same projects. We're starting out taking the same approaches, and are at approximately the same point in our experiments (aha! So my progress is not as glacial as I had feared...)

In some ways this is kind of nice. It lessens the "I have no idea what's expected of me or how to proceed with this" feeling, and it's like I have a ready-made fit into the lab. But that's a bad thing as well: I don't want to just fill someone's place. I don't people will really make that connection though--we're not all that alike, personality wise, and we work on different things. So that's ok.

The only other problem of Alex's initial projects failed pretty spectacularly. She went through a real low point in her research early on before things started to work. And right now, after I've had One of Those Weeks where nothing is working, I can't help but worry that that's what I'm headed for too.

1 comment:

  1. I can certainly understand worrying about doing a me-too project. Consider the advantages of starting off following in Alex's footsteps-many of the methods have been worked out, you know what can go wrong and hopefully how to fix it or maneuver around it. It's not such a bad thing when you're first starting off. Research projects are in a near-constant state of flux. You stumble upon bizarre results and end up taking detours, so the final project may look very different. It's worth re-evaluating in 6 to 12 months where the project is at, where it's going, and whether you're still feeling the same way.

    Re: stuff not working-we all have those days/weeks. For some of us, they turn into months or years. Again you have the advantage that Alex did not-you know what to look out for, the signs of future spectacular failure, so that you can bail out before spending too much time on it.