Karina, over at Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist, is hosting September’s Scientiae. She asks bloggers to write about “…what types of tools other people rely on for their research.”

I had to think long and hard about this question because, honestly, my research is pretty boring when it comes to necessary tools. Why? Because I basically sit in front of a computer all day long. ALL. DAY. LONG. It bores me just thinking about it, let alone writing about it! The only thing I could think of to write about was how I use the internet for pretty much everything. Boring!

This makes me sad, and it sometimes makes me feel like I’m not a “real” scientist. I read other blogs where they talk about having to spend time at the bench, or their equipment breaking down, or traveling to do field work. DH also has a very hands-on job: he’s in the lab all the time, designing things, building things, fixing things.

Even though my masters and doctoral work were categorized as observational astronomy, I did very little observing myself. Most of my research was based on archived data. If I did get new data, other people (professional observers working at the telescope(s)) obtained it for me. I did do some observations using the local telescope, and I did take two very short trips to use another telescope on my own. But, that’s about it.

During my two short post-docs, I really wanted to pick up a small project or two that involved using my hands, being in the lab or field, even if it was on the side. I was involved with such a project during my first post-doc (with my PhD supervisor), but the project was only in the initial stages that all I was able to do in the four months was to order some of the equipment. In my current post-doc, the plan was to go out in the field once or twice to help install or fix GPS equipment. But, then Baby G came along, and the trips were postponed, and it just hasn’t worked out.

It makes me wonder if I missed out on something. It makes me wonder, had I had these types of experiences in grad school, if I would have enjoyed that time more and not want to jump the research ship so readily. But, maybe this is why I enjoy outreach so much. I get to be out there, interacting with people, showing them stuff that doesn’t involve me sitting in front of a computer.

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Comments on: "September Scientiae: Missing Out?" (5)

  1. hehe, whenever I'm in the field I wish I were behind a computer 😉
    Still I am happy to have the diversity, and yes I think it is nice to work with actual tools and with your hands every once in a while. And we had the choice. Friends with the same background as me are now behind computers day and night, without ever going outside. Other try to do fieldwork only, but the more “educated” you become, the more fieldwork is being done for you. By students.
    I'm surprised you hardly “observed” things yourself. Outsiders probably think that's all you ever do.

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  2. Like you, I do theory/computation, so I suppose all my tools are mathematical and computational tools. I live vicariously through my experimental colleagues though! 🙂 We all have our frustrations — they wait for weeks for equipment to be fixed; I deal with strange bugs in codes and things not converging… It's all good fun though!

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  3. Sounds like outreach is the perfect fit for you!

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  4. I'm not sure that I'd be satisfied crunching data all day in front of a computer, either! I rather like using my hands and doing the wet lab stuff, clumsy as I inherently am. I know people who have gone the other way–classically trained cell biologists who turned themselves into bioinformaticists and now spend all day on the computer data-mining. They love it and swear that they would never go back to the wet lab! (interestingly, I've never heard of any biologist moving in the opposite direction)

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  5. Nina – that is probably something not a lot of people know about most astronomers. We generally don't get our own data!

    GMP – yes, there are definitely issues with each!

    UR – I sure think so 🙂

    bean-mom – that is interesting! I wonder why that is?

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