Summer in the lab: the homestretch

It’s week 9 of my 10 weeks with my student researchers.  Where has the summer gone?  Seriously.  Things are wrapping up in the lab—my students are busy analyzing the results from our experiments a few weeks ago and writing up their results, which will eventually (hopefully) be woven into one or more conference papers.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on student research, one of main goals as a research advisor is to help my students become more self-sufficient, able to come up with questions and lines of inquiry on their own and follow up on them.  My students were put to the test last week in this area—I took the week off to visit family and purposely did not bring my laptop with me (and checked email minimally).  So how did they do?

Awesome!

  • I did not get a single email from them all week.  Not one.
  • I left a ridiculously long to-do list, and except for the last item (which was really pie-in-the-sky thinking), they made not just progress, but good progress on the rest of the items.
  • They had to give a talk at an undergraduate research symposium.  I saw a very rough version of the talk the Friday before I left, but that’s it.  They wrote the presentation completely on their own, and from what I’ve heard they did a great job with it!
  • I have had minimal meetings with them this week, because they are too busy/engrossed in their analyses and writeups.  On Monday, my first day back, we spent much of our meeting time having them run ideas by me about things we could do with the data—some of which I, honestly, never considered.  Together we came up with a complicated analysis to attempt—I sketched out a very rough idea of what I wanted, but they did all of the leg work in figuring out how to actually do the analysis.

So I’d say my students are pretty self-sufficient now.  I’m so proud of the work they’ve done this summer and with how far they’ve come.  I’m really looking forward to seeing their results, and their interpretation of these results.  They’ve really done a lights-out job moving the project forward this summer.  I hope they are as proud of their work as I am!  (And yes, I plan on telling them exactly that!)

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