Monday I found myself in a conference room on the tenth floor of the Life Sciences building, listening to my post-doc advisor explain his most recent project. Hundreds of issues of Nature and Science covered the bookshelves, and a wall of windows overlooked the Charles, Harvard, MIT, and the “infamous CITGO sign.”
My post-doc said something that I was acutely aware was meant to be a joke. The biology reference went over my head, but I pretended to laugh anyway to ease the awkward.
I took notes while he was talking to me, but most of them consisted of things I was too embarrassed to ask about:
- What does SSN stand for?
sequence similarity network, not social security number
- What’s the workflow?
the order in which you run big programs? sort of?
- What does “PI” stand for?
principle investigator, aka the head of the lab. not 3.14159
I only have a NYS 10th-grade knowledge of biology. Yet this is the second time I’ve decided for some reason to join a bioinformatics research group.
For both projects, the first day has been the same: someone with a PhD in a biology-related field explains to me what they are working on while I try to keep my brain from exploding. It always makes me wonder why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Last fall, on the first day I met the Hungarian neuroscientists, for example, I spent the entire 2-hour research meeting thinking they were studying this phenomenon called SHARK wave ripples instead of SHARP wave ripples. I thought that was cute, and totally saw the resemblance between the SWR pattern and a shark fin in the ocean:
(to be fair, their Hungarian accent was really thick) These kinds of experiences make me worry that I don’t belong here, that I’m not going to be able to help with the project, that I will be annoyingly slow– IMPOSTOR syndrome. I try to remember that this is an REU and the point of it is for me to learn. I’ve already been handed a textbook and five papers to read through! That should be a start!