Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Beginning of Wisdom

There's something very odd about being in a lab where you don't really know any of the experimental techniques. I'm starting to suspect the following is true in most areas of life, but current circumstances have brought it to mind.

When you're ignorant of something, is it better to find the information on your own, or to go to an expert and seek their assistance? When is one path better than the other?

This is not usually easy to determine. Experiments which are commonly done in the lab can be tricky. Sometimes when I need a ubiquitous reagent or piece of plasticware, someone will be happy to point it out to me. Other times I'll be told to, "Just go look for it." Sometimes I'm confused about the exact nature of the protocol, since my tutorial involved very general outlines. If I ask someone about, say, precise volumes or concentrations or reagents to add, sometimes I'm told what I seek. Sometimes I'm told to just go "find a protocol on Google." Other times I'm given such a run-around it's silly. "Hm . . . I don't remember. Why don't you go ask that guy?" It's even better when I get to the end of the chain, usually three or four people down the line, and they question the experiment in the first place. "Why would you run that? It won't work and won't show you what you want to do? Here's a different three-day experiment you need to run instead."

Perhaps there is no set answer, but I find that I have a difficult time knowing when to take one path or the other. I suppose figuring out the difference is a large part of success in this field.

1 comment:

jen said...

Further proof that there are no stupid questions, only stupid responses.