Uncomfortable

This makes me very uncomfortable. (Image from Wikipedia)

The ESC conference I attended earlier this month got me thinking (as any good conference should).

Not only was I thinking about all the really cool research going on around the country, but also about future directions for my own work, and for my growth as a grad student.  As I watched talk after talk, it became apparent that certain high-tech molecular tools are rapidly becoming prevalent in entomological research, which I tend to think of as being a very field-based (and not high-tech) science.  This view is, of course, heavily influenced by my own largely field-based, whole-organism research and the community-level ecological framework in which I tend to like to work.

By the time I got home from the conference, I was  a little worked up about all this molecular mumb0-jumbo.  I didn’t want anything to do with it. I didn’t want to feel obligated to incorporate it into my own research. It seemed unnecessarily complicated.  “Screw you, molecular junk”, I thought.

Then I thought about it some more. And I came to the realization that I was being a little rash. A little judgmental. A little, well…a little terrified, actually.

The reason I was feeling so resistant to molecular work was because I don’t have any experience with it.  I understand very little about it, really. And the problem is, it’s very easy to judge, or fear, things you don’t understand. I’ve always understood how this shapes my interactions with other people, but I never made the conceptual leap to apply it to my views on research.

So. My goal for the next year is to totally unnerve myself: to step well outside my comfort zone and explore these high-tech realms, and find out if they can be useful tools to enhance the quality and depth of my own research.

I’m taking steps already to help me achieve this goal. I’ve asked friends-in-the know for stuff to read. I’ve asked colleagues for advice and support. I’m even going to be embarking on some crazy new fully lab-based chemical analyses of the beetles I’ve collected – very soon! Whoa!  All of this is going to mean a lot more work, a lot more reading, a lot more thinking, and a LOT of struggling with new concepts, theories and techniques.

However, I think there’s a potential for very high payoff in the long run. If it doesn’t kill me, all this new stuff will make me a better-read, better-skilled, and more well-rounded scientist.

Here’s to being uncomfortable!

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