August 14, 2022

Agarose Substitution for Electrophoresis - Week 1

Last Sunday, August 7th, marked the first official week of my investigation into the possibility of agarose substitution with tapioca starch. As with all research projects, an investigator doesn't simply jump into conducting experiments. Papers must be written and protocols must be double-checked! The process by which I did this will be on today's plate (or rather post)!

Why are Papers so Important?

Think back to your elementary school days when the yearly science fair was held. The central premise was always the scientific method and documentation. You would, hypothetically, ignore this and just put baking soda in a paper mache volcano. This led to the eventual (and hypothetical) demise of your project as you got last place. The reason for this is, of course, the ignorance of the scientific method and documentation.

The main point of the scientific method is to create a standard method of approaching a problem that has been proven to yield reliable results. It also helps to ensure that your question hasn't already been answered by someone else in the past. Going back to our scenario, by not following the scientific process, you unintentionally did the research for no reason but for the enjoyment of chemical reactions without collecting substantial data. Don't get me wrong, I love to play with random chemicals as much as the next guy, but it's a waste if it's not used for a valid research question for the greater good of knowledge and humanity. And while it may sound profound when phrased like that, all it means is that you must have a valid question with a valid way to answer it.

Onto the other half of science fairs: documentation. Documentation, simply put, is recording what you do and what you get. Whether it's microwaving X amounts of chemical Y in a microwave for Z minutes or taking a five minute break to go watch cat videos, everything you do must be documented. The answer is simple: people want to replicate what you did! An important aspect of research is the ability for it to be recreated and evaluated to ensure what you research is valid. Documentation comes in handy since you can use it to easily describe your steps to creating your results.

How to Document 101

Documentation can be done in any way, seriously. You don't write all of your documentation in your final product, so as long as your documentation holds the information you need to add to your final manuscript, all documentation methods work. However, there are certain ways to document that are more effective than others.

For one, write the methods for your experiment out before actually conducting them. Then, while conducting the experiment, make edits as you go to account for the differences between the ideal and actual amounts. Secondly, prepare a data table for the observations you are planning on making. This makes it much more convenient than writing random pieces of data without any context behind them. Furthermore, it makes it much more readable, so there will be no chance that the data gets mixed up. The last and most important part about documentation: take lots of notes and photos! It's always safer to take more photos that are unnecessary than to miss out on critical pieces of information!

Closing Remarks

So most of my 7 readers may be asking "why" to this post. Other than the fact that I spent this entire week writing parts of my manuscript and preparing for experiments tomorrow, making this my only topic to write about, a lot of people simply don't understand the importance of good documentation. I know this first hand as this blog was based on a lot of documentation for Ghost. While the documentation isn't necessarily bad to make your own site, it's definitely not the best and most friendly. So if you ever decide to do a research project in the future,  please remember to make good documentation and follow the appropriate scientific method.