Research is a lot like love, and the commitment to be a researcher is a lot like saying “I do”. A career in research requires commitment, passion, and sacrifice. It means a promise to respect “the sacred vows” of honesty, faithfulness, and perseverance to conduct sound, solid, hypothesis-driven research. Like love, research is not about an end destination, but rather, the journey of scientific exploration. It requires us to ask and answer in this process: What am I good at? Does the world need this? What do I love?
Much the same as in the start of a new relationship, we as scientists embark on the journey of research with starry eyes, warm and fuzzy feelings, full of wonder and fascination at the endless possibilities that lie ahead. With high hopes and strong hypotheses in hand, we devote ourselves to collecting and evaluating data. And, like hopeless romantics, we push towards the trajectory of scientific investigation with great optimism.
As time passes, one may start to realize that a career, which began as promising and exciting, is also riddled with setbacks and misfortunes. Spending long hours and late nights in the lab with numerous failed experiments, enduring a bout of the flu, caring for loved ones on top of experiments, can freeze that original fervor to a slow halt. Yet, scientists still persist because science still persists. We push through “in sickness and in health…”
Sometime down the line as scientists, we realize that conducting research is not always a genial experience, but rather, a steadfast commitment, that enduring the tribulations of scientific investigation is in itself an act of love. “…for better or for worse…” As scientists, we must always keep in mind our unbridled love for research. While there may be times when we feel challenged to be flexible, to re-work our hypothesis, or even abandon a project all together, we must not lose sight of what first ignited our passion: research itself. We dedicate ourselves to the process of discovery, of exposing truth even when it feels the most elusive, because we know that the end product has the potential to benefit hundreds, thousands, millions of lives around the world.
“Why?” You might ask – because of the commitment to the essence of research and improvement “to love and to cherish…until death do us part…” As scientists, we must show fervent tenacity even if that means pushing through difficult times – for in doing so we reap the rewards not only of personal success but also for the greater scientific pursuit. Love can be tough and difficult at times. But, it’s this same love that inspires, motivates us to continue working at complex research problems until we discover life-changing cures.
Written by Cleveland Clinic Post-Doctoral Fellows Iris Nira Smith (Ph.D. University of Houston: Former Bridges to Doctorate & Former NRSA F31), Amina Abbadi (Ph.D. Cleveland State University), Kelsey Bohn (Ph.D. Purdue University), MG Sharoar (Ph.D. Chosun University: Alzheimer’s Association Fellow), Madhav Sankunny (Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh), Angél Reyes-Rodriguez (Ph.D. Case Western Reserve University), Alice Valentin-Torres (Ph.D. Case Western Reserve University), Aimalie Hardaway (Ph.D. Wayne State University: Former NRSA F31 & IMSD Fellow), along with Gaoyuan Liu (B.A. Boston College, 2018) and Rafael Luna, Ph.D., of NRMN.