Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Little Wonders

Lab meetings are never fun. At least never for the person presenting. Our lab has a habit of having a "roundtable" meeting every now and then where every lab member must present one powerpoint slide on what they have been upto that whole month.

Today was particularly brutal for a girl that I work with. She's a research technician in our lab as well as our lab manager. Apart from her administrative duties, she has been very enthusiastic about learning bench work and science and new techniques. After being bounced from project to project, she finally found something she could sink her teeth in when she was put on my project.

I love learning. If anybody is willing to teach me, I love to learn new stuff. Science and lab work is no different. I remember how excited I was when I started off on my first project as an undergrad. It was an amazing experience. So I don't really believe that our research tech should be treated like a "tech" who is concerned only with techniques. I try to explain to her why we do what we do and get her to think about what she is doing. After all the growing pains part, we now have a pretty good system between us.

For anybody who has mentored a person in lab techniques, the day the your student is no longer a cause for delay in your experiments but is actually helping move the experiment at twice the speed it should, is a very proud day indeed. Where my project is right now, I could never have gotten to this point so quickly if it wasn't for the tech's contributions.

Today's lab meeting was terrible for her though. For the first time, we ran into a roadblock in the project and she has been working hard on trying to troubleshoot without turning to me for help. But our boss doesn't even let her present. Instead my student was insulted, criticized (not constructive at all), and embarrassed in front of the whole group for no reason. That sucked.

Right after lab meeting, I went looking for the tech but I couldn't find her anywhere. She had left to go home early. I was kinda worried about her. Its not easy to stand up in front of a lab that views you as "just a tech" and talk about science to a bunch of grad students and post docs. Its even worse when your boss doesnt appreciate your efforts.

Andy suggested I write an email to her. The techtard that I am, the possibilities and wonders of the emailing system escaped my mind. So I wrote to her, telling her I think she is doing a great job on the project and that she should be proud of all that she has learnt and how far she has come. Here is what I said -

"Hey there,

I tried to find you after lab meeting but I think you have left for the day. I just wanted to tell you not to take anything the boss said to heart in the wrong way. I saw you look quite dejected.

I think you are doing awesome on the project and this project wouldnt have moved forward so fast without your work towards it! :) You are constantly learning techniques, with some more experience, you will learn how to analyze results as well :)

You are doing great!!! Keep up the good work!!!


Its not much I know. But apparently it made a difference that I sent that email.

I got a reply from her. (There was more to the reply than what I have shown here but all that is just between me and the tech :) )

"Thanks girl. I really needed that.

I really appreciate you realizing I might need a pick me up even though you're going through so much. If you ever need anything, let me know :-)"

No matter how crappy the day can get, no matter what happens that brings you down, no matter how sad you are, its little things like these everyday that make life so darn beautiful. As I type this post, I know that in future I am going to have several other posts that warrant the title "Little wonders" and its knowing that these small things happen everyday that makes life worth living :)
Happiness is not always about the big things in life. Happiness finds its way to you in the most unexpected ways. Finding your favourite parking spot free, a stranger holding the door open for you, the guy at the fast food counter who managed to convince you to donate a dollar for a good cause, the car that stopped to give you way to make a turn, a new flavour of your favourite cookie, a text from a friend you haven't spoken to in forever, a fortune cooking advising you to order take-out, a pat on your back from your favourite post-doc in lab, singing in the car to your favourite CD....

A reply to the email you sent to your lab mate, showing that she knows you care and appreciates that you do :)

So have you made somebody smile today? :)


Confused Soul said...

All the little joys in life that you have pointed out.. so very true! Sometimes a little thing can make your day!! :) There's this quote that I love.. If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours! :)

Anonymous said...

So true, little things make life beautiful. Doing small good to someone, or anyone doing something for us unexpectedly. You are growing up and learning about life!