When I was a kid, I had the classic childhood experiences of being extremely excited by holidays and birthdays and other special occasions (getting a new kitten!). The days of being thrilled by such things are long gone (new kittens excepted), but birthdays and holidays have been replaced by new thrilling events in my life. Some of these new thrilling events are in my professional life.
This week, I am feeling very excited about getting some new Science Results very soon. I CAN'T WAIT TO GET THESE RESULTS.
If the results are not great, I will be rather crushed. I have learned to deal with the disappointment of getting nautical-themed dishtowels from my mother for my birthday nearly every year, but I'm not sure I'm ready for the disappointment if these much-anticipated results do not live up to my expectations. If the results are boring or bad, I'll deal with it, move on, recover etc., but I hope I don't have to.
But if the results turn out to be as great as I expect/hope them to be.. it will be just like getting a dozen new kittens.
I'm not sure why the anticipation of interesting research results reminds me of childhood. I don't think data-anticipation is a particularly childish thing, but the feeling of excitement leading up to the revealing of the new results reminds me of that old-time thrill of special events. And I am counting the days.
Among a certain circle of colleagues of mine, there is the tendency to classify grad students as to whether they have a passion for research or not. There are various terms for the passion-for-research characteristic, many of them involving words like "fire".
It is not a requirement that grad students live and breathe research and only research -- I hope that we can all appreciate a hardworking student who has other interests in life -- but even a non-monomaniacal student should (ideally) want to investigate (and be given the opportunity to investigate) some questions or problems that they find deeply interesting. They should (ideally) feel the urge to discover things, and then also feel the excitement of discovery when it happens.
I have advised some students who truly had this "fire" for research. They just had it in them -- I did not teach them this. For those students, my hope is always that the stresses of grad school won't extinguish these feelings, that they will back up their "fire" with hard work, and that they eventually emerge from grad school with a degree and a still-flaming interest in research, and then go on to make all sorts of new discoveries that I can't even imagine.
11 years ago