• Question: what is your best and worst experience at your workplace?

    Asked by iwishiwasclever on 1 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 1 Jun 2019:


      My best experience is working with an awesome group of people to solve difficult scientific questions.

      My worst – rejection from journals when trying to publish something or when applying for money to do some research.

    • Photo: Aina Roca Barcelo

      Aina Roca Barcelo answered on 1 Jun 2019:


      uhhh that is a good one…

      So my BEST experience is probably when I get to sit down in a room with my colleagues (now friends), we get a big white board, some colorful pens and spend the afternoon throwing ideas and suggestions on how to approach the scientific question we want to solve. It is incredible how many things you can come up with as a team!

      My WORST is when deadlines accumulate on my desk. Sometimes if feel is like it is a black hole absorbing me. But a walk in the park and a chat with friends usually help me to put things in perspective and it is all good!

    • Photo: Kate Timms

      Kate Timms answered on 1 Jun 2019:


      This is a tough one…

      My best experience was definitely getting my PhD. After all those years of working hard and all the ups and downs, it was amazing to finally be called Doctor. It made all the hard work feel like it was worth it. It was summer, the weather was amazing and I felt like I was on top of the world.

      The worst experience came a week later.

      I had taken the week off to enjoy the sun and bask in the glory of finally achieving my dream. And, most importantly, to sleep because I was exhausted!

      But I spent the whole week waiting and anxious. I was waiting for news of whether we had gotten more money to carry on my research. If we did, it would mean I would get to carry on doing the research I loved and would get to work in a place I loved for 4 more years.

      That Friday, I found out that we didn’t get the money. And just like that, the future I was so sure was going to happen just… vanished.

      It felt like such a personal blow. Like they didn’t like my research and what I wanted to do.

      Going from such a high to such a low in just 7 days was kind of mind-blowing.

      I haven’t given up though. I’m working on something else now, but I still believe we’ll get money to carry on my PhD research. Science is about never giving up and I will keep trying until I get it!

    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 1 Jun 2019:


      Hey! Thanks for the great question! My best experience has been getting to travel to amazing places as a doctor, working with amazing teams of people in rural areas of India and Africa – It’s great having a shared sense of purpose, looking out for each other, and making new friends!
      My worst experience has been having to manage the endless workload and learning to say “no” to people, and make time for self-care without feeling guilty.

    • Photo: Rachel Hardy

      Rachel Hardy answered on 2 Jun 2019:


      Hm, good question! I found this one quite tricky still being early on in my PhD journey. I would say that I have produced a lot of completely new data so far for my project, which I feel very proud of as this is a result of hard work and my love for the research that I am doing. I also hope that I will be able to publish this in a scientific journal by the end of my PhD, which would be a huge personal achievement and hopefully go some way to helping patients.

      My worst would be days in which experiments go wrong due to silly mistakes! For example, one morning I spent hours sorting fruit flies into different food tubes with various drugs added. The next day, I found that all of the fruit flies had died as I had added too much of a certain chemical to the food. This was a waste of my time the day before, as well as the supply of fruit flies for my experiments. I find it difficult when mistakes are made due to human error – luckily this doesn’t happen often, but I feel very annoyed at myself if an experiment doesn’t work because of something that I could have easily avoided. That said, it is only human to make mistakes every so often, and I think it is important that people know this is ok as long as we learn from the mistakes.

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 2 Jun 2019:


      Best experience – filling our boss’s office with hundreds of balloons to make him feel like he was ‘inside a cell’ (for his birthday, and his reaction was priceless). As we’re in the Cell Biology Division we thought the experience would be ‘educational’. Needless to say we’ve had our ‘fill’ of balloons for a while…and we failed to stop the boss working for more than about 10mins
      Worst experience – there is a particular instrument (which shall remain nameless) that we sometimes use for circadian experiments; I have tried to make friends with it several times but have come to the conclusion that it just doesn’t like me. It’s ok, I can get my own back by switching it off.

    • Photo: James Streetley

      James Streetley answered on 3 Jun 2019:


      this is a great question! I can’t wait to see what the other scientists that answer this after me say! I just read the answers you’ve already got and they all feel very familiar.

      My best experience was getting to travel to Boston for 6 months to do part of my project there. It was really interesting to live abroad for a while and see that even though America is quite similar to the UK, there are also some differences.

      I get most annoyed with myself for making silly mistakes that stop other people from doing their work. Sometimes clicking the wrong button or opening the wrong valve at the wrong time can delay an experiment for hours or a day, and then I just feel a bit silly as I’m supposed to be the expert. we all make mistakes I guess!

    • Photo: Matthew Burgess

      Matthew Burgess answered on 3 Jun 2019:


      Think it’s often the same as any workplace in or out of science; people can be the best and they can be the worst!

      Every lab I’ve worked in has brought me some of the nicest, interesting, intelligent friends I’ve made. You’re constantly stimulated, supported and work is all the more pleasant for it.

      At the same time, there’s always going to be people where your personalities don’t mix well; they clean up equipment in a different way that is “obviously wrong” in your opinion (but is definitely just as good). Why do people leave their dry towels on all the hooks in the changing room?!

      There’s a reason you get put together in groups when doing your science experiments at school! The way we often write about the past stars in science makes it sound very individualistic (the lone genius, slaving away in the lab to make a ground-breaking discovery) but even 100 years ago they would have had people assisting them and now science is super collaborative so you need to learn how to work with others 🙂

    • Photo: Ettie Unwin

      Ettie Unwin answered on 3 Jun 2019:


      The best part of my workplace is all the lovely colleagues I have get to work with and learn from. The worst experience I had at work was sexism for being a female scientist. I was the only technical female member of staff in my group and building (Please note that isn’t at Imperial where I work now but somewhere before!) It was only one person and with the help of my peers and bosses it was all sorted out quickly and easily.

    • Photo: Anabel Martinez Lyons

      Anabel Martinez Lyons answered on 3 Jun 2019: last edited 3 Jun 2019 9:33 am


      Great question (and I promise you that you are clever!) – my best experiences are the ‘eureka’ or ‘I get it!’ moments. They don’t happen every day but are wonderful when all of a sudden I understand ‘that’s why this hasn’t been working’ or ‘ah, this could be what’s going on to produce that answer’. Figuring out the answer to a scientific riddle is the best feeling in the world to me. Usually this happens after talking to other scientists and doing some reading around the area, and also after lots of technical trial and error! So it’s very rewarding when it happens.

      My worst experiences are when I make a silly mistake and it’s my fault something hasn’t worked. I always try to learn from every one of these experiences and make sure I do what I can to stop them from happening again. Example: once, I was rushing to leave the lab and left a box out of the freezer when I was looking for something – it stayed on the counter overnight and when I came in the next morning I realised I’d thawed out some important samples and chemicals (that were also quite expensive). I remember feeling incredibly stupid and guilty! But I told my boss right away and now always double check the counters after closing the fridge or freezer (every time!).

    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 3 Jun 2019:


      My best experience was definitely seeing that I had finally managed to turn my stem cells into astrocytes (star-shaped brain cells) after almost 18 months of trying and failing! I almost cried.

      My worst experience was all the times this process had failed and I’d lose up to a month of work. Especially as this would often happen on a Saturday. “WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?” is something I often ask of my naughty cells.

    • Photo: Ross Hill

      Ross Hill answered on 3 Jun 2019:


      BEST: These moments can be quite rare, but a defining moment in any scientist’s career is that one EUREKA MOMENT, where the result of an experiment changes everything. A single result that makes all of your other observations make sense. These moments of clarity of rare, and you feel on top of the world (for many days!). I was very lucky to have a moment like this last year, and I still smile about it.

      WORST: Lots of the work we do in the lab is hypothesis driven, which simply means we have an idea and then go and test it in the lab. Sometimes we have ideas that seem so perfect, they offer an explanation to all the problems in an area of science. The idea seems so wonderful that it can’t possibly be wrong…. Can it?! Yes…. Yes it can. When these ideas turn out to be wrong it can be quite upsetting, but in science it is important to accept that we did the right thing by testing our ideas and accept that we cannot be right all of the time. So we continue searching for the true answer until we finally have that special EUREKA MOMENT!

    • Photo: Thiloka Ratnaike

      Thiloka Ratnaike answered on 3 Jun 2019:


      Best experience – very difficult to pick out one, but the feeling of knowing I made a real difference to a sick baby’s chance at survival by being present at their birth and helping them breathe. Worst experience – probably the ‘not knowing’ what happens when you finish a shift. By this I mean, you handover your patients to a team of doctors so you can finish and get home, but sometimes there are patients who are really sick and you really want to know that they are going to be OK- can cause me a bit of sleeplessness!

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 3 Jun 2019:


      When I’m working clinically in the hospital as a doctor, the best experiences are when someone says thank you and is grateful for what you’ve done for them. The worst experiences are always when a patient dies unexpectedly. When we are aware that a patient is likely to die, we can do our best to make that process more comfortable for them and their family. It is always sad when a patient dies, but a worse experience for everyone when noone was prepared for it.

      In my research the best experiences are always when you find something new, or when I feel a conference presentation has gone really well. At conferences I may present my research findings to several hundred other scientists who are interested in the same topic. I always dread the questions they are going to ask because it could be on just about anything, and sometimes I then get the “nailed it” feeling! Worst times are when research participants dont turn up for their appointments. It means we waste so much time setting up our room to do the measurements and getting scanners warmed up. We always understand that sometimes people change their mind and dont want to do the research study anymore, but it’s always nice if they let us know so we can use the appointment for someone else.

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 4 Jun 2019:


      Best: Lab Meetings can be great fun, everyone shares some data they’ve got from recent experiments and we all chat about what this means for a hypothesis or how this might affect future experiments. It’s a really good collaborative experience that reminds me that we’ve all got different skills and areas of expertise that we need in a team, science is never the result of one person!

      Worst: Sometimes you have to toughen up a bit. Part of the role of a scientist is to tell other scientists about our work by either presenting it like a lecture or class or by publishing it in a journal (a bit like a magazine) When this happens it’s important that we contribute constructive criticism, suggestions about how to make it better or fill any gaps in the research. What makes science robust is that other scientists review each others work to ensure it’s been done correctly. Unsurprisingly, it can sometimes be quite hard to receive criticism of your work when you feel like you’ve done the best you can.

    • Photo: Lorena Boquete Vilarino

      Lorena Boquete Vilarino answered on 5 Jun 2019:


      My best experiences at work are probably the moments when either something works and you can see a clear answer for a problem you have been working on for a long time. Sometimes you can also be talking about something difficult with someone else and suddenly they say something which makes you go “AHHHHHHH, SOLVED IT!!!!”. It’s amazing how sometimes it doesn’t even have anything to do with the problem itself!
      My worst experiences… probably when doing a very long experiment and I do something wrong almost at the end, or a machine breaks down and the experiment goes in the bin. It’s hard sometimes to then get the motivation to start again!

    • Photo: Deepak Chandrasekharan

      Deepak Chandrasekharan answered on 10 Jun 2019:


      Best lab – Discovering something new – I had spent ages (weeks) trying to get an experiment on cells from the ear to work and finally when I was looking down the microscope one evening and the cells were glowing green as expected, and we’d cracked it, that was amazing!

      Best hospital – The happy patient when we’ve made them better with an operation that I’d helped with/done

      Worst lab – When I had to present to my entire department and every single pictures of my data in my powerpoint were just big red crosses because it wouldn’t work on the computer…I wanted to disappear and went as red as the crosses I was so embarrassed and felt bad to be wasting everyone’s time!

      Worst hospital – Being unable to help a patient/when a patient dies. It’s hugely sad

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