Research…again? I left that behind a long time ago. But do you ever? Well hell yeah, that’s what research is all about. My first ever “research” (quote-unquote, or quote-fingers) position (I will qualify that with it being outside of structured learning at uni) made a huge impression. I remember being picked up from the train station in Canberra by a lovely lady, who was a little like the lab Mum. She asked me what I thought research was, to which a young, bright and blue-eyed new graduate said: “coming up with great new stuff, and changing the way the world understands itself!”. She laughed! She actually laughed, and said she would ask me again in 6 weeks time.
Over those 6 weeks she and I “observed” the other lab members and she asked me what I saw; “Geniuses at work!”, I replied. She nodded and made me promise to never say that where their inflated egos would hear it. Then she told me about Gottfried and Michael and Bobin, Su, and Peter who all had one thing in common; she said they were the most optimistic and eternally patient people in the world. *what*?
She said research is self-perpetuating. Most of it is failure, day in – day out. Occasionally the clouds will part (here occasionally is measured in multiples of many years!) and the heavens will bestow some insight. But mostly, it is just failure. Upon failure, upon failure. So I asked, “why would they do it?” and she replied, “because they love the challenge, and even more they love the journey. When you think you are close to the answer, 3 more question unfold and the journey continues…
Ironically, this was to be her last month in the lab, as she was retiring after a lifetime of research.
So, what is research? Ask me in 12 years, I might have the answer by then, but if not perhaps I will be able to ‘inspire’ another young scientist.