When I was applying to grad school, the most common thing people told me was that to successfully get a PhD, you have to be able to deal with frustration. It applies to lab work in general, too. Things aren’t always going to work. Things aren’t even going to work most of the time, because biology is complicated.
Much like in mysteries, sometimes we hit dead ends. Sometimes our solutions are contaminated and keep the experiment from working (in which case, we get to do the experiment again; yay us!) Maybe the equipment breaks down. The cells die. A thousand things could happen.
And of course, when we’re adapting a technique for whatever particular cells/organism/etc. we’re working with, we have to to optimize it for our particular situation. It takes a lot of time, planning, and troubleshooting to get data that means something.
Another common thing people told me, when I was applying to grad school, was that you knew it was for you if it was worth it. If months+ of work and planning, all for one single shining moment where you figure something out, is worth it.
And it so is. That moment when you’re looking at something no one else has ever seen before? That’s what it’s all about, and it’s fantastic. (Serious bonus points if it’s something can eventually contribute to helping someone, too–there’s a reason I chose the biomedical research field, after all.)
And now, something entirely different. For those of you who have wondered which came first, the chicken or the egg, wonder no more. Here is a hilariously detailed explanation: