The lab that I did my thesis work in was a lab where the motto was to shoot with hail in order to find something interesting. Not only because the lab did a lot of screening work (like microarrays and other high-throughput screening), but also because we started a lot of different experiments without thinking too much about feasibility (yes, it’s so much easier to see that now than back then…). Looking at my thesis, I think I did about twice as much as there is in my actual thesis. Most of these experiments either prove to be too difficult (lesson: behavioral paradigms that work in mice don’t necessarily work in rats) or just didn’t work (lesson: translating shitty RNA into shitty cDNA will give shitty microarray results).
So now I realize that I have to do some more thinking before starting to do an experiment (although this comes from a person who just realized that her post-doc project is way too ambitious and has to be downsized a bit in order to have something publishable in a year and a half). Now that I’m starting to think about my next big grant (3 years of money for research back in the home country) I have the good resolution to REALLY think about what I’m going to do and how feasible that is. It feels like I can use my experience from grad school and my post-doc and finally get it right!
But whenever I think too long about an experiment I realize a) how much work it is, including work during inconvenient times like weekends, b) all the pitfalls, c) all the things potential reviewers may say about it, and I barely dare to start an experiment any more. During grad school I felt that it was good to NOT think about an experiment too much, because then I had already started a lengthy, boring or tedious experiment and there was no way back, so I had to finish it.
So I’m still searching for the right amount of thinking before doing an experiment. Maybe it will help if I pretend that it’s not me who is going to do all of the experiments?