Field: Biology education research/Plant Biology
Job/position: Assistant Professor
How long have you been working in this field? 6 years
What kind of story would you like to share? Challenges in research (sometimes experiments fail through no fault of your own)
Please share your story here:
As a graduate student, I set up reciprocal transplant gardens to test questions about plant population adaptation to microhabitats. These reciprocal transplant gardens were set up on the coastal dunes--so, from the get-go, I knew this wasn't the most stable of environments. The first time I set up the experiment, most of the plots were washed away in a storm before I could harvest the plants for a final data collection. I then set up a second set of plots--setting up a more complex and interesting experiment. Soon after, another storm destroyed my plots. Going to my field site and discovering the destruction was devastating at the time. However, I managed to salvage the experiment because thankfully I had collected data across multiple time points. Despite the washouts, I still had some really interesting data. I couldn't address all the research questions I initially developed, but I figured out ways to salvage what I had.
Retrospectively, I recognize how much this experience taught me. Best-laid-plans don't always come to fruition when it comes to research. I learned that developing a back-up plan is wise, so that if an experiment "fails," all is not lost--perhaps something can be learned and built on from that failure. Is the failure an interesting story in itself? Prior to this experience, most of my research had been smooth sailing for the most part. After this, as I shared my story, other scientists shared their stories of problems in research, and I realized that this is universal in research.
What do you wish you had known earlier during your career in science?
Research mostly involves failure and challenges--but often, this is what makes it so interesting and how we learn and discover new directions and uncover novel observations and hypotheses.
Any final comments or advice for young scientists: