Where's the fire?
Usually my favorite part about science is when I get excited about an idea or an experiment and I just have to know.
Not having much of that this week, and I need it.
I have some techniques for finding things to get excited about. I read papers, I do open-ended experiments, I talk to people about my work and see what kinds of questions they ask.
Sometimes other people's questions are good ones, sometimes they just spark better questions for me or remind me of old pet ideas of mine that need to be revisited.
I'm trying all those things this week, hoping to get excited. Because right now it all feels like WORK. Drudgery would not be an overstatement.
Think long dirt road in the middle of nowhere, add a slow drizzling rain and you get: slogging through mud. A long, muddy road in the middle of nowhere.
Sometimes research is like that.
And I have thought about getting a student. I usually find this really inspiring, but for various reasons I don't have one right now. I'm not sure if I should, except for this one temptation to borrow that quality of inquiring minds want to know.
I did take some time off the last couple of weekends, and while that can be rejuvenating, it doesn't get me fired up to come back and start pipetting madly.
And I have lots of questions I could try to answer with my research, but right now none of them are burning brightly.
I think part of the problem is this nagging feeling of Who Cares?
This is often a problem in basic research, where the public doesn't know what we do and usually our findings take decades to reach some kind of useful application. We don't really get to see the effect of our labor on any aspect of daily life.
Sometimes it's really nice just to have other researchers tell me they think my work is exciting. And that does happen from time to time. Ideally I would like it to happen at least once a week. In fact I heard it yesterday.
But ultimately I'm pretty bad at caring what other people think.
And ultimately I'm the one who has to be excited enough to come in every day and get things going. ME. I have to be convinced that it's supercool stuff I'm doing.
Even if not all of the actual doing is actually fun. That's why they call it work.
So I'm here, and things are going, but I'm running on fake excitement right now.
I'm thinking I will have to resort to my most time-honored method of making drudgery more fun: plugging something upbeat into the iPod, and reminding myself that no matter how tedious the pipetting might be today, it would be a lot worse to work in the fast food industry or on an assembly line. Or in a cubicle with nothing but spreadsheets and TPS reports.
Hey, it got me through grad school, so there must be something to it.