• Question: is it difficult doing the work that you do?

    Asked by mollyillingworth to Alan, Caspar, Diana, Murray, Sarah on 21 Mar 2011 in Categories: . This question was also asked by 09datetia.
    • Photo: Alan Winfield

      Alan Winfield answered on 15 Mar 2011:

      Hi Molly

      Yes sometimes it is difficult, and frustrating, and keeps me up at night and stresses me out, and so on. But for me the rewards make all of that worth it. Some of the hardest things in the work I do are not the actual research, but other things you need to do in order to do the research. Like applying for grants. This is really important. If I don’t constantly apply for grants then, within a year or two, my current projects (and the money that pays for them) would run out and I would more-or-less have to stop researching.

      So I would say the most difficult thing is constantly having to write grant applications knowing that the chances of success are maybe only about 1 in 5. In other words 4 out of 5 grant applications I (and most scientists) write are not successful – so all that effort was wasted!

    • Photo: Diana Drennan

      Diana Drennan answered on 15 Mar 2011:

      For me, my job isn’t really difficult, it’s fun. Or, rather, the fun is in figuring things out – so, a good challenge is a good thing. However, for someone else it may be hard. I think we all have strengths and weaknesses. For instance, for me, I can’t hit a ball with any sort of bat or racket – I’m just completely uncoordinated. So being a professional ball player would be very difficult.

    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 15 Mar 2011:

      I think the work can be difficult.

      It’s not like when you are at school have you have to study for tests and do your homework, at university you don’t have teachers telling you what to do. So you have to take responsibility for yourself and be motivated to get things done.

      I just make myself a To Do list every day to make sure I don’t forget anything! And I set myself long term goals like “right, by the end of March and going to have all these reactions finished”.

      The actual work I do in the lab is not that hard. But you have to be really accurate and take notes in your lab book of all the experiments you do. You also have to be really careful with dangerous chemicals and plan ahead, because some reactions take 16 hours, so I have to let them run during the night.

      The teaching work that I do is a lot of fun and it’s not difficult at all. The students I teach are really friendly and really willing to learn.

      And the science communication stuff I do is just really fun and is always a nice break from the lab. It’s nice to meet new people and students and teach them about cancer research.

    • Photo: Murray Collins

      Murray Collins answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      Hi Molly

      I’ve answered a few similar-ish questions, like this one here:


      I hope this answers your question, and I remember we’ve already had a chat! But please do ask again if there’s something you want answering 🙂

    • Photo: Caspar Addyman

      Caspar Addyman answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      Yes,there are times when you feel like your brain is melting and that everyone else in science is doing incredibly complicated things that you can’t understand. That’s a natural insecurity that everyone feels about life at some stage. The important thing is to remember that everyone else feels that way too.

      Then there are times when things keep going wrong or you have a frustrating time trying to understand how to make your computer analyse your data. Or a disk crashes completely erasing an essay you’ve written just moments before you had to send it in. That’s when you think the world is conspiring against you. Again, that can be difficult but everyone else goes through those problems too.

      The great thing about the work of a scientist is that it’s rarely boring.. there is always something new… and usually something new and amazing about the world and the way it works. (See Diana’s comment at the end of this question http://ias.im/35.1597 )

      That makes it worthwhile.

      Oh and I get to hold giggling babies.. which makes everything more bearable.