6 things to expect when starting out as a researcher

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6 things to expect when starting out as a researcher

The transition from university lab sessions to a full-blown research environment can be challenging for newly-graduated scientists.

Adapting to the pace and requirements of a new lab, while meeting your supervisor’s expectations, can be daunting – but with the right preparation, you’ll be able to adapt and make the transition with ease.

Here are six things that you’ll probably experience when you join a research unit.

  1. It’s not the same as your university lab

When you first arrive, you’ll probably notice the difference in layout and equipment between your new lab and the ones you got used to at university.

Different types of equipment and a workspace that is arranged for collaboration (instead of teaching) are just some of the changes that you’ll need to get used to.

  1. The atmosphere is vastly different

While teaching environments tend to have a more relaxed and nurturing atmosphere, private research units are driven by the needs of their clients – and that creates an environment that values results above all.

  1. You’re worried about workplace etiquette

The best strategy for negotiating a new lab environment is, go with the flow. If your colleagues are open and friendly, feel free to follow suit – but when deadlines are looming or a crisis occurs, be ready to observe and assist.

  1. It’s a steep learning curve – even for straight A students

No matter how well you did in your degree, when you join a research unit you will inevitably find that there are new lab procedures, research approaches, and literature that you simply don’t know about.

  1. You’re suffering from information and task overload

Instead of feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, use your advantage – you are fresh out of university and able to absorb information quickly.

By executing tasks given to you quickly and accurately, and learning as much as possible about the equipment, research areas, and projects being carried out in your lab, you’ll set yourself apart as a fast learner with a great work ethic.

  1. You keep making mistakes

A new work environment, with new colleagues, procedures and equipment, is the one place where you’re guaranteed to make mistakes.

Instead of panicking, remember that your colleagues know you are inexperienced – learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them and you’ll win yourself a lot of respect.

Soon enough, you’ll be able to think creatively and make a meaningful contribution to your field.

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