I’ve been mulling over my last post, in which I ranted about the preponderance of molecular biology in current entomological research. I found it interesting that several people, people who I like and respect, quickly leapt to MolBio’s defense. Which made me wonder if maybe I was off the mark about the whole thing.
Then I listened to a dialogue between Gary Paul Nabhan and Josh Tewksbury, recorded as part of the Natural Histories Project, wherein advanced chemical, analytical, and visualization techniques are described as the “the binoculars of our age”.
Which made me think some more. And I asked myself, “Self, why are you so darned resistant to this whole concept?” And the answer I finally came up with was both humbling and embarrassing:
I’m afraid of it.
Worse, I’m afraid of it because I don’t understand it. Yikes. Not an easy admission for me to make.
I guess its genes could be equally awesome? (But probably not as SHINY)
See, I was the kid who barely scraped through high school chemistry. I moaned and sighed and drudged through mandatory introductory organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics courses as an undergraduate student. I REJOICED when finally I was able to take courses that dealt with whole organisms, their environments, and the complex interactions between them.
The truth is that I have a very hard time working with and understanding things I can’t actually see with my unaided eye or touch with my own fingertips. Everything else, all the cellular- or gene- or smaller(!)-level phenomena that are obviously integral to the organisms I so love to observe…well, they fall into the realm of “abstract” for me. I simply trust that they are going on as people claim they are (funny thing, that, considering I usually take very few things at face value).
So, my conceptual and practical comprehension of these things are, sadly, probably far more rudimentary than they ought to be at this stage of my career.
I’d like to fix this.
I’ve decided to adopt a new mindset, based on Nabhan and Tewksbury’s interview. I’ve decided to view these things as simply being “new binoculars” – new tools at my disposal that can help me better understand the animals I’m studying – not as high-tech annoyances.
Over the next week or so I’m going to develop a plan of action to help me get over this brain-hurdle I’ve imposed on myself. I expect it to be challenging, and I’m quite certain that it will take me well outside my academic comfort zone. These are both very, very good things.
If anyone has any suggestions that might help highly kinesthetic/concrete experience-type-learners such as myself, I would gratefully welcome them.
* Expect regular posts from me on Mondays now. I’ll be sharing thoughts, pictures and updates about my research and growth as a grad student.