By Shreya Murthy, Peer Research Ambassador
Its 11pm at night and you have to send some materials to your PI on your research project the next morning. All of a sudden, your computer screen goes blue, then black, then won’t turn on again; your computer just crashed with all of your research inside.
Participating in research is a really wonderful and engaging experience and helps students in so many personal and professional ways. However, when situations such as the above computer crash happen, things get a little more interesting.
Like with any endeavor, there are going to be successes and challenges. While your computer crashing may be a bit of an extreme research challenge, it can happen. However, the more likely issue may be erroneous data, or an experiment giving you results you did expect or not being able to find the right resource in the library. Each person’s research is different and thus necessitates a unique response. However, having the right attitude and mentality when dealing with these issues will always help the situation.
Recognize that these issues do happen and that it is a normal part of the research process. By accepting this as truth you can transition from a place of panic or anxiety over the issue to a place of problem solving. Try to figure out what caused the problem, try to understand how to prevent the problem from happening again, or try to understand what the issue is trying to tell you. Use this information to make adjustments.
Be flexible! This is probably one of the most important things about research. You have to be able to roll with whatever your project throws at you. Depending on how long it takes you to figure out the issue, you may realize that you have to amend your timeline for the project. Maybe your data collection and database creation will now take 2 months instead of 1. Maybe you need to spend more time working on your experiment and less time on something else.
Remember why you started researching this topic in the first place. This is absolutely crucial. When talking to students who are interested in getting involved in research one of the things that we highlight is the need to be very passionate and interested in the topic that you choose to study. This is one of the reasons why. When things get tough, your underlying passion and motivation to answer your research question is going to be the thing that gets you through the tough times. It is going to be the thing that pushes you to go back into your lab or spend time working out your computer problem.
Undergraduate research is really fun to conduct but it does present challenges and will test your resolve as a student and researcher. Having the right attitude and mindset will really help you out when your computer decides to mess with you or an experiment gives you some weird data.
Shreya is a senior majoring in Criminology, Human Rights, and Finance, with a minor in Political Science. Click here to learn more about Shreya.