My Waterloo or DAMN YOU SPINACH!

April 17, 2008

We separated chlorophyll from spinach leaves yesterday in p. chem lab. In two weeks, we’re going to do a study on the effect on fluorescence of chlorophyll concentration. To quote Brett, “Hm, I wonder what that will be?”

Anyway, back to this week’s lab. We had to crush up the spinach leaves using a mortar and pestle, and then flush out the chlorophyll using ethyl acetate (which, by the way, smells a heck of a lot like acetone… ie not good). Then we centrifuged out all the icky parts, pipetted off the ethyl acetate + green stuff, and did some column chromatography (think of the kind of chromatography you’ve done with pens, but with a much longer plastic tube and with a lot less fun). I managed to screw up packing my column twice, though I just went ahead with the second one.

The entire time, I kept thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I clearly have no aptitude for lab sciences. And yes, it’s totally something I could work on and become better at (I had no ‘aptitude’ for riding a bike until Dave taught me last summer), but I wonder if there’s a point? Shouldn’t I focus on my strengths, rather than try to polish away my weaknesses?

It’s a little too late for me to change my major now. I mean, I’ve already taken all the courses I’ll really hate (or, well, mildly dislike), and I’ve only got 3 more labs total, two of which I’ll finish off next semester. Might as well see the major through, and focus on taking a different course in grad school.

And I think that course will have to do with computer modelling. I like math, I like the physical sciences, and I like computers. I don’t know why it took me this long to put those three things together and realize, “Hey, they totally have jobs out there for people who like those things… and there probably aren’t too many people like that in the first place!” Like I’ve said earlier, that might have been something I should have figured out at the end of high school. But I suppose better now then after I’ve entered a graduate program in chemistry. It’s never too late to change my mind [evidently something I like to do, as you can observe by reading posts under the ‘my major’ tag]!

Which brings me to another blinding flash of the obvious, to quote David Allen: I’m at that point in my life where I’m, you know, an adult, and should be making decisions based on my best interests. And those interests are encompassed by (a) what I find pleasurable and (b) what I find meaningful. And at no other point in my life will I have quite the same amount of power over its future direction than I do now. It might be useful to start paying attention! (I probably had a lot more leverage when I was choosing colleges than I do now, but unfortunately I don’t have a time machine. If anyone does, please feel free to call me at 555-555-5555). I don’t want to end up one of those ‘typical Americans’ that hates his job. Especially when I’ve had every opportunity afforded me to pick a career that I’ll love and excel at.

Looks like 6th-grade-me had a lot more going for him than I give him credit for. At least, he paid a lot more attention to my strengths and my likes than I have recently.

Time to go back to my roots. Now excuse me as I go play with Python.

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One Response to “My Waterloo or DAMN YOU SPINACH!”

  1. Mrs. O said

    I sucked at lab in college, and hated it. I still went into research. Although I still wonder what I was thinking sometimes, I will admit bench work is a lot different from college labs. For one, you don’t have to turn in samples or lab reports for a grade (although you still have to write stuff in your notebook and report your results to your PI). Also there aren’t really time limits (other than wanting to get home for the day, or if your PI is bugging you for some results). Of course the negative is you usually don’t get all the background for the experiment in a neat little packet, and you don’t get have a TA around when you have questions. But I guess I’m saying it’s different, you have more flexibility so it doesn’t feel as much like a chore.

    Doing research in an actual lab is the only way to figure out if you like it, and my advice is if you don’t really enjoy that, run away, run far away. It’s not worth it unless you really love it. (can you tell I’m a little bitter?)

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