Firsts, and the end of firsts

Learning how much of science is about labeling
Learning how much of science is about labeling

This week, I’m saying goodbye to my first crop of students (pun 1000% intended) that are mine and mine alone. I got them through the Science Internship Program at UCSC, run by Raja GuhaThakarta, Nina Arnberg, and Sue Grasso. Both that team and my students have been fantastic. It’s been a wild ride and a great learning experience for me, and I hope they would say the same.

It’s also week tinged with bitter sweetness. I’m constructing a bigger team of more high school and undergrad students now, and it’s thanks to my SIP interns that I feel I can take this on. But as much as I’m excited to send them off to do great things with their new knowledge, I’ll miss them terribly.

Interns afield, far, far away
Interns afield, far, far away

To mark the end of this first adventure, here are some of the things we learned:

1. Write a little bit every day. Write what you’re thinking about. Write questions. Then share it with each other. One of the things that worked the best with these students was having them cultivate good reflection habits. It definitely made me step up my game to set a good example!

2. Nothing in science takes the amount of time you think it will. Our plants grew too fast. Data collection took too long. But if you’re willing to put in the work, it will turn out in the end.

3. Check your data entry several times, then have someone else check again. My undergrad PI told stories about old-guard scientists who made their students enter the same data three times. Especially with multiple people working in the same datasheet, this becomes an imperative.

4. The things you find interesting may surprise you. Neither of my students had ever thought deeply about plants (much like my high school self). However,  they are now both excited by the big wins like our data supporting our hypotheses, and by the little things, like getting new species to grow.

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