Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Meaning in the Monolith

School stresses me out. I work very hard. But I do well: Dean's List both consecutive years, on my way towards a third. School can consume my every waking thought. During crunch time, I'm either working, thinking about working, or wondering what work I could be doing. It's far from pleasant to feel this way, but it's just how I operate to get what I want out of my life. I'm fully prepared, and committed, to making these sacrifices.

Sometimes, a rare day will come along where I can set all this aside and take a step back. This has happened to me in the past few days.

Yesterday we finished enriching and impoverishing the rats for my undergraduate thesis experiment (clicky to see my adorable rats) . Today we tossed some of the rats into the elevated plus maze and started the behavioural testing. Essentially, today we started collecting the data to see if the 3 months of working with those rats 5 days a week will pay off. There have been many set backs - people's general incompetence, the lack of the uridine diet, an animal having to be put down, changes to our experiment rooms, etc. As Christine and I were sitting around while cutie rat #7 was in the maze, I began to change my perspective.

Instead of focusing on all the nitty gritty details of what's gone wrong, how it could fuck up the results and remove any chance of publication, of how much I've dedicated to this, how hard I've worked on it, how sleep deprived and exhausted I am, I realized how much fun I've been having. Yes, fun! Christine and I have had so many hilariously fun moments with our rats: cooped up in a tiny room with the critters running all over us. We always manage to laugh and have a general good time.

I get to be a part of this scientific community: instead of just reading about theories and experiments, I've been fortunate enough to be able to do my own. To test theories I'm interested in, to carry out my own experiment, to contribute to the general scientific knowledge. The topic of my thesis has serious potential therapeutic uses for people with aging related memory deficits. This isn't some meaningless project strictly for a grade. This means something, and I realized that today.

While University life can be fake, and contrived, and monolithic, it can also be such a great environment to challenge and enrich your own life. I love it when I come hope skipping because I'm just about ready to explode with knowledge. I love it when I get a chance to think in a different way, to learn something I find so fascinating that I just want to run home so I can talk to someone about it. Of course, there's hardly every anyone that I can talk to about it, but that doesn't always matter. What matters is I know how to appreciate what I'm fortunate enough to receive, and I'm lucky enough to be able to enjoy it.

Listening to: Raven - Dave Matthews Band


At 5:15 PM , Blogger letti said...

hi joanna :) i understand about uni being stressful..i did biotechnology for 4 years, graduated and then took up medicine and worked another 5 years for my MD..worked as a doctor for 2 years and now am in the States, and having to study on my own again to sit for all the US Medical licensing exams so that i can be licensed to practise here....but like you say, it's all a wonderful journey and it's good when we can step back and look at it all as an adventure rather than drudgery :)

all the best

At 2:41 PM , Blogger Eddie said...

Your rat experiment sounds cool! I also did some rat stuff as an undergrad. I miss my Nigel!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home