Believe nothing, question everything and never stop!

When I remember my days as an undergrad, I feel the good old nostalgia of those days when my friends and I gathered in the faculty cafeteria to prepare tests, homework or anything else. However, the challenges are quite different now. Back then the answers were almost absolute. If you were able to read the book and manage to improve your ability to solve logical problems, you were on the other side of the river. During a graduate research, who can say if something is correct or not? Of course, your supervisor (an expert in the field) must have a strong opinion about a subject, but if you find evidence rejecting his/her hypothesis, then who else can give a precise answer? In my own field, there are many questions that nobody has really answered, while some researchers publish papers with vague explanations to incredibly complex phenomena. And inside this whole chaos reside the real beauty of science. Many times we simply have no clue of what is happening. And our sole weapon was created a thousand years ago.

Photo by: @lyly.man #gradlifemcgill
“…after a close room, what hurts them most is a dark room, and it is not only light but direct sun-light that they want… People think that the effect is upon the spirits only. That is by no means the case. The sun is not only a painter but a sculptor.” Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing, 1860.

Ibn al-Haytham was a scientist who lived during the 10th century in the actual Iraq. While the renascence scientists were still some centuries away, he was already creating the basis of modern optics. An even more important, he created the scientific method we use today to explore the unknown regions of human knowledge. Observe, ask, create a hypothesis, perform experiments and repeat until the truth comes to light. During this quest, he established that we must question all previous knowledge and even our own to make sure we are free of any bias.

I am writing this to remind myself of something. We may not have the answers all the time (even during our presentations) and maybe our experiments just seem to contradict our hypothesis. It is very really frustrating to see how months of work are gone to the vault of failed expectations. I am writing this in a moment where my own research becomes more and more complicated and every experiment just raises more questions. I have been spending more hours than I should in the laboratory. But even with all the tiredness and frustration that I am experiencing this night, I can tell you one thing. I am also strangely happy. I feel excited, challenged and full of purpose. Afraid of course! I don’t know how what will happen next, but I am grateful for it. After all, in the (very) worst case scenario, I will be able to say that I failed greatly following my dreams. I hope that all those who are struggling with the same stage of a Ph.D./Masters, soon find the correct questions and have the greatest success!

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