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April 23, 2022 2 min read

Today is World Laboratory Day. While I was photographing little microscope necklaces on my back porch this morning, I started thinking about the psychology lab that I worked in during college.

MRI images

I was a math major and knew nothing about psychology when I signed up for an interview with a psych lab in my second year at college. I just had some extra time on my hands and thought it would be an interesting way to get experience in a research setting. The lab group I joined focused on cognitive mapping, and for several years I helped to run experiments where subjects navigated a computer-generated arena and then tried to remember what the arena looked like. 

The science was pretty cool (especially when the lab started doing MRI studies), but I also remember the friendships. Every Friday after lab meeting we would hang out, chat about all sorts of things, and laugh. We laughed A LOT. We even went to Mexico together a couple times, just for fun. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but in retrospect I think the professor who ran the lab group tried very purposefully to create community and foster friendships within the group.

When people think of the phrase “scientific research,” they probably imagine microscopes and telescopes and graphs and spreadsheets of data… and that’s not wrong. But what I think is sometimes forgotten is the relationship side of science. Researchers are just normal humans doing their best to find answers to hard questions, and it’s a lot easier to do that when you are collaborating with people that you like. 

So here’s to lab groups, lab meetings, lab partners, and lab friends! Here’s to seeking answers to hard questions. Together.

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