In a scene reminiscent of The Big Lebowski, a handful of us summer research scholars congregated in the depths of the Union Underground bowling alley for the ultimate showdown of dexterity (and free pizza). After strapping on our fluorescent bowling shoes and setting up the score monitors, we prepared to wreak havoc on the competition—that is, until someone asked “wait, where are the bumpers?
I failed to strike a single pin during the first round. But similarly to bowling without bumpers, research also comes with varying degrees of success. Maybe your lab is critically low on a certain chemical which is essential to the advancement of a project. Or maybe an expensive piece of instrumentation needed to run vital assays is out of order. Or maybe you accidentally incubated a cell plate with a known toxin, potentially creating an uncontrolled mutant cell line (hypothetically speaking here). Impediments like these can be frustrating, or even defeating in some cases, such as the Underground’s on-screen animation of a dancing bowling pin informing me I had consecutively landed the ball in the gutter.
But these hindrances only represent the worst days spent conducting research, and the satisfaction of bouncing back turns these roadblocks into speed bumps. Patience and encouragement are key, whether it be bowling a 300 or experimenting with novel cancer treatments.
-Ian Davis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University