Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Doing Research is Fun - Reflection - Aaron Nelson

The things I've learned this summer can be divided into two main categories: "things I've learned about jellyfish and turbulence" and "things I've learned about conducting biological research." My biggest motivation for applying to COSEE was to add to the latter category, but that being said, the experience of learning about jellyfish has been an enjoyable and captivating process, and I am lucky to have been granted such an elegant research subject! Jellyfish were perhaps the perfect vehicle to deliver insight into the research process, and my experience this summer was very diverse: I've helped with experimental design and construction; I've conducted research trials with live jellyfish and plankton; I've written about our materials and methods and have summarized the background literature concerning our question; I've "quantified" the movement of jellyfish using video files; and I've even earned my first stripes with the dissecting scope, spending a hefty handful of hours counting and collecting plankton.

A majority of my time was spent working alone, while my mentor Dr. Kelly Sutherland was working in Eugene, and this situation granted me an autonomy over how and when I would work. The result of this often meant working late into the night and some long days; but also having the ability to make time for other plans outside of the lab. In short, I feel that I got a glimpse of what it's like to be a self-motivated professional researcher; working at a list of long-term tasks in the order I felt was appropriate rather than completing short-term tasks at the whim of a professor in a class setting. What it really comes down to is this: the classroom can never replace authentic research experience and I am grateful for this opportunity! While I have seen some of the infamously tedious side of research work, I have also witnessed its stimulating aspects that come with the frequent critical thinking and problem solving. These latter aspects have outweighed the tedium for me enough that I'm destined to continue down the path of research, and I'm happy to have gotten my start here.

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