Within this packet of papers is your mission, should you choose to accept. Read the enclosed materials, find the necessary resources, and then report back to me. The experiment is top secret. This message is scheduled to self-destruct in 3… 2… 1- BOOM!
While I was a student, my mentor often gave my lab mate little side projects here and there. He never bothered me with these little projects and at the time, I was so thankful for that. I was able to focus my energies on my thesis and get things done. I graduated with one first author paper and one review article. My lab mate graduated with one first author paper and was included on several others because of all those side projects.
The other day, my postdoc mentor handed me a stack of papers and gave me my first side project – for sh–s and giggles, he said. I am beyond excited! First, it’s a project for which there is relatively little published material, making the project idea seem novel and exciting – “no one else is even thinking of doing this!” are the thoughts going around in my little head. Sure, it may be a total fail, but if its not…
This kind of excitement, while not rare, it not necessarily common. I love my work, I love what I do, but most days, I come in, I get things done, I check off the list and move closer to completing the aims set forth for my project. But this,… I have been thinking about this project day in and day out for the last three days. I leave work and I take papers home with me to read! I do lit searches on my iPhone while rocking the baby to sleep. I wake up in the morning with new inspiration.
I do hope it turns out to be a great little project with new interesting information discovered at the end of it. But even if it doesn’t, its a great reminder of how exciting science and research can and should be. The feeling that you and your mentor had an idea that no one else had, that you are about to discover something completely new, that you could change the way your colleagues think about a protein, system, etc. is why we enter into research in the first place. I wish I could tell you more about it, but I’m sworn to secrecy!