The Small Moments Can Be Highly Motivational

May 05 2008 Published by under Day in the life of DrugMonkey

The workaday high points of bioscience careers are fairly obvious. Getting that publishable result finalized, analyzed and figure-ified. Getting a paper accepted. Getting a fabulous score on that grant proposal. But these moments are as much celebrational as motivational. Perhaps even more so.
Sometimes it is the little moments that are the best motivators.


Galvanizing moments of my day to day science are pretty small potatoes. Celebrating events such as paper acceptances or good grant scores are a big deal, yes, but are more likely to motivate "let's knock off and go to the pub". They are not really motivational for the work itself. What really gets me going are the little moments that are pregnant with unfulfilled yet attainable success. These little moments are not about petty victories over a balky piece of equipment or programming bug, they are something a little more.
Little motivating moments come when you get that result that lets you know that you will be getting useful and informative data in short order, or at least by buckling down and just collecting it. Perhaps the point where the major technical hurdles are solved and you obtain that N=1 of totally clean data that you are sure will go into the end figure. If lucky, it is the N=1 that agrees fabutabulously with your hypothesis but anything that is a "good" observation will do.
It is especially delicious when you are starting a series of studies that will either beat back your usual critics with a big hammer or else tell you your last year's worth of experiments are complete crap!
I'm having a little moment in one of my projects...

12 responses so far

  • PhysioProf says:

    My favorite is when we're fucking around with developing a novel technique, and we get the first piece of really solid data that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the technique is working. I love that shit!
    When that happens, I'll print out the data and fold it up and put it in my pocket. Then if I'm out at the bar or at dinner with PhysioWife, while we're sipping a nice cocktail I can whip it out and admire it, and fantasize about the R01s and C/N/S papers that are going to arise out of it.

  • TomJoe says:

    My door at work is constantly littered with the latest DNA fingerprinting gel images, phylogenetic trees, and FISH images we've obtained. Going places where you know no one else has ever been before ... you can't beat that feeling!

  • bill says:

    Research is more addictive than crack. DM, maybe you should study *that*.

  • TreeFish says:

    There is no better feeling than those little peaks at a brighter future. There is no better time to reflect on them than after a few cocktails; your mind is tickling the hybrid of DaVinci and Henny Youngman, and you think the best thoughts and tell the funniest jokes. Then, of course, I have a few more and...get angry at the lack of recognition my science gets, TreeWife rolls her eyes and hides the kids, and I pass out in an Adirondack chair on our back porch with Captain Morgan's all over my crotch.

  • PhysioProf says:

    Captain Morgan's

    Dude, that shit is an abomination. If you like rum, try something decent, like Mount Gay.

  • juniorprof says:

    Mount Gay! After the week in Cayman, I will be happy not to see any Mount Gay for awhile.

  • TreeFish says:

    If Mount Gay is so much better, then why would I waste it on my nether regions?!

  • Eric says:

    I finally got my last ***** assay to work for my last PhD paper. That n=1 is glorious, because the assay works and it agrees with my hypothesis. I've been convinced that I'll actually graduate soon for the last few days....now for the tedium and terror of n=2 through 4 to see if they agree:)

  • Then if I'm out at the bar or at dinner with PhysioWife, while we're sipping a nice cocktail I can whip it out and admire it
    Dear jeebus, I can't believe you would show such disrespect to PhysioWife.
    In all seriousness, look at this business we're in: submit a paper, get an anonymous reaming; submit a grant, get a (relatively) anonymous reaming. Then when you get an acceptance or award and look at the calendar, you've accumulated a few more gray hairs.
    The delayed satisfaction in being a scientist makes it imperative that one celebrate the small victories and short-term advances. But those windows into what can be with a new technique or line of thinking are those that are terrifically intoxicating.

  • drdrA says:

    Boy, I'm glad I'm not the only one carrying exciting data around in her pocket and looking at it over and over!

  • PhysioProf says:

    Is that some awesome data in your pocket, or are you just excited to see me?

  • drdrA says:

    Smart-T-Pants PP, I KNEW that remark was coming. Be a little less predictable next time.

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