New beginnings

The last week of summer research brought sudden success in biology. After one month of failed protein expressions due to one reason or another, I finally had enough to run experiments…on the third-to-last day of research.

At this point, I was already extremely stressed and burnt out from the long weeks of research and school applications I’ve been dealing with this summer. I was ready for a breakthrough; unfortunately, I didn’t get one. Science is not a process of instant gratification, after all, and no amount of hard work guarantees a success.

Despite my griping, I believe there is a valuable lesson in failure. Similar to a maze, following a pathway to a dead end showed me which path not to take. Continuing with this analogy, it would be foolish to stop trying to complete the maze if I were to trip and fall down, the equivalent of a month of unfruitful protein expressions. Eventually, through meticulous perseverance, I will isolate a solution. I have already learned a lot about what procedures will work more efficiently, and I just need a few more successes to be able to focus my research. For this reason, I think of  my summer research as an ode to new beginnings. Although I may not have accomplished my original goals, I have established a foundation and a background to follow through with as I continue my research during the academic year.


  1. Tyler Jutz says:

    Just wanted to chime in and say I feel your pain here! It’s been a long, frustrating summer of research for me as well. However, as you pointed out, I don’t think you can ever rightfully call time spent doing research a waste – there are always lessons to be drawn from such experiences. Failure and frustration often turn out to be better teachers than immediate success. As long as we persevere in our research, all of these difficulties will not be in vain!

  2. Hey Hong-Anh,

    I am so sorry that you have had such a tough time with research but if I am completely honest, it is such a relief to know that I was not the only one who struggled with research this summer. Before I could even begin my research work with my zebra fish they all died…and I felt so completely lost about how I would get any work done. I love what you said about no amount of hard work will ever guarantee success because I think more than anything else I have learned this summer that lesson has been the one that has stuck with me. But something that I also learned from losing my test subjects and somehow building a project despite is that failure has its purpose in the scientific research world. When we do research on a certain topic and formulate a procedure we sometimes get so involved into the details and workings of that one procedure that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that other procedures exist and that they might lead to significant results…failure in our own procedures opens up our eyes to those swept aside procedures and in a way makes us as researchers widen our horizons and not only think outside of the box but think outside of a bigger box. There is a success in failure…sometimes it’s just hard to see because we get distracted by our disappointment.

    I wish you well on these new beginnings and I am glad to see you take such an optimistic viewpoint on research struggles because, trust me, I know how pulling-all-of our-hair-out frustrating it can be. All the very best!


  3. Hey!

    Don’t get discouraged. I think we all were really stressed out and worried about the progress of our research. If there’s anything I learned from this summer, it’s that research and outcomes are entirely unpredictable…and this takes WAY longer than 7 weeks!