If things worked on the first try, it wouldn’t be called (re)search

The ups and downs of science

As I wrote before, starting in 2017, I spent four and a half years at a job that taught me a new skill set, but felt like it was killing my brain cells. It was draining and unfulfilling and made me feel like a monkey – turning the crank to provide quick results for people who didn’t have enough time, or access to the right equipment, to do the work themselves. I missed real research with its challenges and logical thinking that it requires, and craved the mental engagement that comes with having new ideas to consider and explore.

In the fall of 2021, I left the position and found a job at a flavor and fragrance company which, to my great surprise, also required basic biology research.  Here, I was immediately introduced to a project that seemed like a great fit for my extensive experience in microscopy and image-based (high content) screening.

While I cannot divulge a lot of information about our research program, let’s just say that I needed to develop a cell-based assay, that would be quantified using fluorescence microscopy imaging, where I would look for an increased percentage of cells that display a certain phenotype.  Given that I have run MANY high content screens at my previous job, it seemed like a very straight forward project…

At first glance things often looks so much simpler than they really are. @YZorina

Fast forward about a year and virtually no progress has been made. The main thing I needed to do to develop this assay is find a good positive control to prove that it can work at all. But no such control is currently known. About a month ago, after trying all possible ideas I could come up with, I stumbled upon a treatment that finally gave me the result I was looking for.

Yay! I was so happy! For about three weeks.

Until I noticed that something funny was going on. The positive result was showing up even in the absence of necessary proteins. How is that possible?! After trying to cross-check it for about two more weeks, I had to face the fact that it was most likely an artifact… Sigh.

But that’s science for you. Can’t get your hopes up too high too soon… 

Or can you?

Embracing optimism in the face of disappointment

Scientific research can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It’s full of highs and lows, moments of triumph and moments of defeat. Sometimes it can feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of disappointment and frustration. But does that mean we should avoid getting our hopes up altogether?

For many scientists, the answer is yes. It is a common belief that the best way to protect yourself from disappointment is to avoid optimism altogether. After all, if you never expect anything good to happen, you can’t be let down when things don’t go your way.

I spent my whole life trying to avoid the pitfall of disappointment, both in my work land beyond, and ended up only keeping myself in a chronically bad mood. Trying to avoid optimism not to be disillusioned later resulted in not allowing myself to feel happy about anything. 

Looking back now, I would argue that it is not the best approach to allow ourselves to fall into this trap. Even if disappointment is inevitable, as it often is in science, we should allow ourselves to feel happy at least in the moment. As I wrote earlier, there’s only one moment between the past and the future, and we should give ourselves permission to fully enjoy it.

It’s okay to give hope a chance. It’s okay to allow ourselves to feel happy and excited about the possibilities ahead. Yes, there will be disappointments along the way. There will be setbacks and failures and moments of frustration. But those moments don’t have to define us.

So go ahead and get your hopes up. Dream big, hope for the best, and celebrate your successes along the way. Even if things don’t always go as planned, you’ll be grateful for the moments of joy and excitement that make life worth living.

Hope, 2018

3-dimensional bead work inside of an hourglass. Wooden frame. Height 12″, Width 7″


Art is my emotional outlet and my oasis.  I use art to express my feelings and work through life issues.  Come join me on this journey of letting go of control and letting the creative process take over.  You will get access to all of the behind the scenes footage and see the major breakthroughs that translate into new artwork.

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