Male student carrying out research in the river basin room

Living a researcher’s life on placement

I was once told in an interview I conducted for an assignment that research is constant in every part of your life and have come to understand that it can become a lifestyle as much as it is a job. The reality of the vast number of hours required to develop, conduct and analyse research became very apparent in the earlier stages of this project.

As with many parts of the placement; I learned that no plan survives or works the first time around. Designing and implementing a methodology with which to conduct representative and accurate research was by far the biggest culprit for siphoning my time throughout this project. I would say that the implementation of the experimental design was the greatest challenge as the time it takes to alter and finetune some of the setups were labours and time consuming. A specific example was deciding how we would quantify the amount of sediment and microplastics were being transported at each hydrograph.

By consulting my supervisors and doing a bit more reading we decided on designing a fixed bed system by gluing sediment to wooden boards so that the only material being transported is from our samples. Though it was a challenge it came with the benefit of giving me not only a great level of insight into the nuances of conducting scientifically relevant and accurate research; but it also enforced my ability to think critically and to solve problems.

The main thing I’ll take away from this entire experience is an appreciation for the incredible effort and patience involved in researching. It’s easy to take for granted the vast amount of published journal articles I use for my assignments and in my learning, but never have I truly appreciated the work that has gone into producing them.

The placement and project gave me a great measure of insight into the meticulous nature of conducting accurate research. I’ll be taking away lessons learned in representability and accuracy of data collection and implementing them into my dissertation. Having gained such a wealth of technical knowledge in working the flume within the university’s hydraulics laboratory will undoubtedly propel me forward in conducting experiments for my Environmental Sciences BSc dissertation and will definitely be a bonus for when I pursue further education after my undergrad.

I can truly say that the research project has become a part of my everyday life and has left a bit of a gap now that it has concluded. Though it presented a tremendous challenge, and is yet to reach its true conclusion, there wasn’t a single point where I didn’t enjoy the experience. Not only was the entire experience what I had expected but also much more than that. My passion for learning and researching only grew more both during times of success and failure throughout my placement.

 

Pieter is currently studying Environmental Sciences BSc(Hons)

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