Research is a Recipe

I don’t think of my research as being daunting. Interesting, challenging, and frustrating, but not daunting. However, conversations with people outside of research makes it seem like that is how everyone else perceives our work. I think that perception is part of the reason so few people try out research programs in school or enter research professions later on.

As I see it, research experiments, at least in a wet lab (i.e. bench-top) setting are recipes. Anyone who can cook can perform research and vice versa.

Whereas cooks have recipes in order to make food, experiments have protocols, a sequential list of instructions that lead to results which could answer a research question. Whereas recipes have ingredients, protocols have chemicals, compounds, and solutions that must be combined together, in the correct order, to get the results you’re looking for.

Good cooks can follow a recipe, great cooks can manipulate the recipe for the better. They understand how the ingredients taste individually and together, how they contribute to each other, and how they can be used to generate a desired dish or flavor profile.

Great researchers work the same way. They understand how each chemical, compound, and solution react with each other and how they are necessary to answer a particular question.

This level of understanding enables the cook or the researcher to change the recipe or the protocol to correct any imperfections or improve upon the product/results.

In cooking, you produce delicious food, benefiting the consumer’s stomach. In research, you produce knowledge, benefiting the consumer’s mind.

Anybody can do research, but the most creative minds excel. Understand the fundamentals and you can create dishes that no one has ever tasted, or answer questions no one has ever considered.

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