This has been a long time coming. I won’t belabor the point so much, but it suffices to say that I am now entering into the stage of my research work which is easiest to communicate and even more the most meaningful.
The first few weeks of my research program, really the first 3 and a half, were about gaining a theoretical foundation in the subject that I’m working on. This proved uniquely difficult to communicate. My work falls at the intersection of a group of conceptually disparate but critically intertwined areas of biological research. The application of big data and bioinformatics, areas of cell biology, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, biochemical engineering, and even information theory, all had to come into a sharper focus.
I had originally planned, hoping to make this initial phase easier to discuss, to focus on a textbook which has been recommended to me by my mentor, and whose problem sets we were going to work through. Though we did use it (a link to its Google Books page is provided below), it ultimately proved to have very little to do with the conceptual work my mentor wanted me to accomplish. In semi-weekly meetings whose stated purpose was to discuss maybe 25 problems over the course of about an hour and a half, we would typically go twice overtime, discussing none of the problems directly, those additional hours devoted instead to him pushing me to look deeper and deeper into what we were discussing.
This, more than an inconvenience at times, was a genuine shock. I constantly felt ill-prepared, that I was failing on a few dimensions, that I knew nothing really. But I kept on working. My expectations having been consistently subverted, I let myself ignore them. And when I let that go, the discomfort, disappointment, frustrating gradually went with it. With these no longer weighing on me, I learned how to communicate with my mentor – to pose questions, make generalizations – efficiently and, as he came to take more time to disagree with me, well.
Then I left for spring break. I had a nice time and came back to work with a renewed purpose and confidence. And now that I had been properly schooled in how to read the schematics of the project, I would get building. This, I will expand on further in my next post (I’m already running a little long). But to summarize, it involved combing through an extremely large dataset, employing about half a dozen different applications and a timely trick or two, turning it first into something comprehensible and then, with serendipity, I found something meaningful.
Now, as I move into the last weeks of the Senior Project, I have the chance to make something tangible of the knowledge I’ve gained. I hope you continue reading to see how I do it.
Link to Textbook: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Genetics/cfvILxY9tCIC?hl=en&gbpv=0