6 November, 1998

November 6, 1998

I feel like a student again, struggling with skills, terms, and procedures with which I am totally unfamiliar. I am really a field biologist but here I am doing all kinds of new things with glassware, chemicals, gadgets, etc, in which every step of a procedure must be done precisely and in proper sequence. Volumes must be exact, down to the microliter. I have to be trained to do everything, from something as simple as how to use a pipetter or how to load the centrifuge or how to wash a cell sample, to how to calibrate and use an osmolarity meter. I feel like a bumbler, definitely out of my element. Everything is so new to me that telling me something once doesn't stick in my head even if I write down detailed notes. (Then I go back over my notes and I find that I don't fully understand them. I guess I feel like my students do a lot of the time! I haven't felt this inadequate in years.) This would be okay with me if my role in the research was not important. Mistakes wouldn't matter. But my role is an important one. So how do I deal with it? I ask a lot of questions, no matter how stupid I feel, then I try again. I am very thankful that the rest of the crew is patient with me. Yes I get frustrated, but bit-by-bit, I'm learning. When the frustration is highest it helps to go to the window or step out the door and put things in perspective by looking out at the spectacular mountains on the other side of the frozen Ross Sea. WOW! What an amazing and awe-inspiring sight! A step into the quiet chapel next door for a short time of prayer overlooking this majestic scene is another way to refresh and soothe my spirit.

Well, I'd better get back to work. I hope you have a good day and do something good for someone.

Fred Atwood



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