Posted by: unlikelygrad | May 24, 2010

my view of research

Research seems to consist of 50% trying to get your equipment to work right, 25% trying to figure out what you did wrong, 15% dishwashing, and only 10% actual collection of data.

I knew this (or something like it) before I started–I have family members in academia, after all–but I never appreciated how incredibly frustrating it can be. I tell myself that things would be better if I had equipment that was manufactured in the 21st century (everything but the GC-MS still has serial ports, for crying out loud!)…but who am I trying to kid? If that were the case, something different would go wrong.



  1. yeah…even if all your equipment is functioning, you still fail at something stupid like spincasting a film, or your crystals don’t grow nicely, or…

  2. I’d say that it gets better when you’re getting older… after the PhD everything is a lot faster…

  3. I think you have to get out of the lab – that is: the wet lab – more often.

    In bioinformatics the only dishwashing going on is washing coffee cups 😉

    … although even that can take up a lot of our time…

  4. You are bang on. It’s absolutely nuts how little work we actually do in the lab. Although a lot of our time is spent waiting for stuff to happen such as incubation times for enzymatic reactions or PCR runs. Also, with all of the frustrations that are experienced in the lab (you estimate 25% of our time is spent on figuring out what went wrong…I’d peg it more at 75%!) it’s a wonder if we even spend as much as 10% of our time collecting data.

    I saw a great video on life in the lab (a drama documentary) that followed 3 graduate students and really does reflect your sentiments. You can find the video by clicking on molecular biologists on TV

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