The biggest perk of working at JAX besides getting to work in a team on exciting research problems is its location. The lab is situated between the Gulf of Maine and the mountains of Acadia National Park. The park offers innumerable outdoor activities. One such activity we enjoy doing together is hiking on Friday evenings after our lab meetings. I like to think of the Friday hikes as a continued extension of the lab meeting, but outdoors! It’s a great way to end the weekdays with physical activity after a week of nothing-but-mental-activity. Our hikes range from moderate to high in terms of difficulty and although no special training is required to hike the mountains in Acadia, it is still a challenging feat.
We’ve done several hikes in the last couple of months and the experience has been both arduous and rewarding. These experiences have made me ponder and draw some similarities between climbing mountains and doing research. Before the hike, we gather all the information we can about the hike… location, path, distance, difficulty, wildlife, flora, etc. We try to get a sense of where we are heading. This seems a bit akin to the literature review, before embarking on solving a research problem. It’s only logical that we would want to get an idea about the problem we want to explore.
At the start of my journey, I’m excited for a myriad of reasons – the things I’m going to discover about nature and myself, overcoming obstacles, and teamwork. I observe new things that come my way. On my way to the summit, I run into other hikers/researchers who are treading their own paths, looking for their own interesting problems to solve. Sometimes when I’m out of breath and I notice other people running their way to the top, I either get motivated or envious and wish I was younger!
Just before reaching the summit i.e. finishing a final draft, I’m fatigued. I’m physically and mentally exhausted but still can’t see the summit. The penultimate part is hardest as I can sense we’re so close but we won’t get there. We give ourselves one final push and finish what we’ve started.
Behold the summit! We can see everything clearly from the top, we see the bigger picture. We see other peaks that we may want to climb in the future. I huddle with my team. I take a short break and enjoy the cool breeze at the top but the work is not done until we submit to the journal.
And so begins – the journey downhill to the parking lot. We go through similar paths that we have tread while climbing up. Although nowhere as difficult as the climb, we are still patient and alert when the reviewers’ feedback comes. We can see our destination is not too far away. We reach the bottom and the hike is finished. We are published!
At home, I crack open a cold one, sit back, and relax until it’s time again to begin a new excursion in nature and research.