Zen and the art of finding your purpose

This week I realized how some of my work will contribute to the “long/term” efforts of timeseries (herein referred to as ts) research; at least at this laboratory. If you consider the multitude of graduate degree projects and theses, post-doctoral projects and other contract positions, these are often highly productive time periods (despite the slow start and learning curve time-lags), but relatively short-lived. Once a student or post-doc completes this project, the grant funds have dwindled, and it’s time to move onto another project.

There may be drawbacks to completely setting aside the previous work. For example, in ts research, the project continues; data collection is often a long term committeemen or research priority for an institution and there are often long range goals that direct the research objectives within the laboratory. However, I see an area within this type of research where the day to day work of a specialized project (either a graduate student or post-doc) can benefit the entire project.

I’m going to use the work I’m currently doing as an example. I’m learning several new computational and statistical tools which I can apply to analyze this ts dataset. Once I complete this research, the skills I’ve obtained from learning how to use these “tools” will reside with me. Effectively, when someone finishes a job, there is always a period of time where knowledge-transfer (I like to call it the “brain dump”) occurs. I’ve been on both sides of this equation, acting in the role of the person receiving the information from a previous employee or student, as well as the information-provider.

So, you may be asking where does zen come into this?

A close friend of mine once described a situation quite clearly. This person explained that…

sometimes you are the student, and sometimes you are the teacher.

The moment you realize what role you play in life [the easier it will be to give and receive information in a stream of consciousness.]

Science is successful when ideas are shared and research is the flowing process by which this occurs. Many times, the starting points are not mapped out. Hence, the saying, “if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research!”…but how does this relate to finding your purpose?

I return to my realization of the week. Perhaps I should be keeping track of these small, “eureka!” moments. Since I’m learning standardized ts analysis methods, it only makes sense that the products of my work will be presented in a practical form. The goal(s)?
– clear written results in manuscript form
– ts roadmap for future analysis
– reproducible scripts
– standardized methods for data analysis
– standardized data structure guidelines

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About hawright

marine ecologist

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