A graduate student came to me feeling low, in despair and
miserable. He had worked years on his final project to
complete his degree. Experiments were not working
to get the results he had expected.
So, Uri Alon’s TED talk came to mind. We talked some
more about his idealism and inadequacy for having his
results not match closely his predictions.
Don’t be so hard on yourself and your hard work! I
shared. The experimental world is not so exact in
complicated experiments and there can be error bars
on predictions due to factors outside your control.
Let the data speak for itself. You have already shared
that temperature has a big influence on your experiment
and you have gross temperature control.
He was feeling shame and despair much like Brene
Brown describes (”The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go
of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who
you are,” Hazelden, 2010). He was not getting feedback from his
mentor that his work revealed the effects and he could not
do better unless he had $25K to improve the experimental
temperature control. He had done one parameter at a time
experiments exploring all the other variables.
He had that “I’m not good enough” feeling and needed a
reality check that the world is full of imperfect humans.
Go back to your committee and tell them you have completed the
study and are finished and these are the results. No need to
apologize– report what you got. You are the expert who
designed and optimized the system and completed all the
He left, head held high and with the courage that he now
can see what research into the unknown is about through