To the young scientist, talk. Yes, I am talking to you hovering in between terrified, excited and awed. Talk.
This may sound like a Business school advice (oh the horrors), but form connections and build networks. The underlying theme of the meeting I had this week was that science doesn’t happen in solitary islands, it happens in a large stretch of land that flourishes with trade. In this case the trade is of intellect, of ideas and to some extent the contagious passion for science. Some of the people will be strangers and remain so, some will be mentors and pseudo-mentors while others might be the person you promise to run sequences for overnight because someone else broke their sequencing machine.
To borrow the words of one of the professors, “You cannot and will not survive this life (in the lab) alone. You are going to need people just as people will need you.”
It appears that I ended up with some awesome people who were more than happy to encourage learning and offer advice over an impromptu lunch, something I haven’t observed much during my undergrad years. As I listened to them talk about dissecting zebrafish brains with plenty of hand gestures and less stabbing than I imagined, I could understand why everyone I have ever talked to about research emphasised so much on lab cultures. Because, scientists? They are people too and like the rest of us, need to borrow a shoulder from time to time or a pipette (will put it back I swear).