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To All The Barnard Biology Students I Fellowed This Week

Betsy Ladyzhets has read more about yeast in the past week than she ever wanted to in her entire life.

Hey, you. Yes, you, the pre-med freshman, jittering as though you just drained a bottle of Redbull. You, the biology student whose introduction has to have a knowledge gap even though a hundred people must have done this exact same experiment, and whose methods section needs to be one paragraph even though the lab took up ten whole pages in your lab manual, and whose results don’t support her hypothesis even though the results have to support my hypothesis because literally nothing else makes sense I don’t understand why I had to spend three hours of my life doing this much less why I have to WRITE about it.

This is hard, I get it. Lab reports are one of the most deceptively simple forms of writing; they appear to have an easy formula, but nothing you actually did in the lab seems to fit that formula. But I, as a Writing Fellow who met with you and about thirty other students just like you in the past week, and as a biology student who made it through that terrifying intro sequence, am here to tell you: it’s okay. Lab reports are weird and challenging because they’re practice for scientific papers, which are even more weird and challenging. Every time you puzzle through how to explain your results or work to fit your writing style to your instructor’s specifications, you’re getting a little bit better at communicating experiments to your scientific peers. Scientific writing, like science itself, is a series of trial and error.

So. The next time you start panicking about a lab report, or midterm grade, or anything else, step back. Take a deep breath. Put your paper down. Remember: this is just one rep in a long training sequence. And you’re doing fine.

late night Altschul views via Betsy

 

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