Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bad Science Week

It’s been a Bad Science Week.

Nothing catastrophic, just a hum-drum Bad Week. Microscope acting up. Western blot FAIL (second one). Cell lines not behaving appropriately. The big experiment that I completed—the one that was supposed to be Figure 2 of my hypothetical manuscript—the experiment that involved two staggered month-long cell culture assays—well, it didn’t work quite as expected. The trend is there. But the controls misbehaved, and the numbers don’t line up well enough with the first experiment in the series. Let’s just say that I will not be making my hypothetical Figure 2 tonight, after all.

But I was reminded again of what awesome colleagues I have. Even in the midst of the blues, I could vent and laugh today with my friends. Who else understands, but those of us who work in the lab? And more than one of us has had a Bad Science Week so far. One of the grad students was looking for Ibuprophen today (headache from staring at the computer screen too long) and heard a rumor that the guards at the security desk have a stash. “Ask them for some,” a colleague suggested. “Say that you could cure cancer today if you just didn’t have this headache.”

My benchmate patiently listened to my tale of woe and tried to cheer me up. “But it’s real,” he said of my experiments. “The trend is there, so you know it’s real. That’s important.”

It reminded me of my own pep talks that I’ve given to others over the years, and I smiled just a little, very ruefully, inside.

And a friend who had had a Very Bad Science Weekend (and aren’t they some of the worse?) gave an excellent lab meeting. She’s been disappointed that a certain hypothesis has not panned out, and she told me that she’d had a mini-meltdown over the weekend after multiple gels leaked and an expensive piece of equipment crashed. But she gave a great lab meeting that was enthusiastically received. She’d complained that her results did not support Hypothesis A, but after seeing her presentation I think that the failure of that hypothesis actually opens up a more interesting and exciting avenue of research. Other people evidently feel the same, as the room started buzzing with enthusiasm during her presentation.

There are two days left, and tomorrow’s experiments might yet (partially) turn this week around for me. Hope springs eternal and all that. I just hope Bad Science Week doesn’t become Bad Science Month or, heaven forbid, Bad Science Year. Because I’ve been in that latter place, and it’s a bad place to be indeed. Even with awesome colleagues who make me laugh.


ScientistMother said...

I hate bad science weeks/days/months. Here's hoping you had a few bad days and the week ends on a high note.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

and people wonder why I wanted out of research...

Seriously, though, I feel your pain, and I hope the science gods turn a kindly eye on you soon!