Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Knowing a Failure

As my time as a masters graduate student winds to a close I have to reflect on everything I have done. That means writing the summary to my thesis. While trying to do that the last few weeks I hit a huge mental road block. All I could think about or write about were the many things I had done wrong. The several hundreds of simulations that inevitably ended with nothing worth writing about. As I sat there trying to figure out the purpose of it all I realized that I did learn some things worth mentioning. No I didn't solve the problem. I did find several contributing factors, none of which add up to the whole, but corrected would definitely make a difference.

In all those failures and what I consider semi-failures I see now that even in something that I used to think was so simple (metallurgy) is actually very complex and we still don't have all the answers. It can be very humbling to do research. You start out with grandiose plans and at the end it can be a little depressing what is actually accomplished. On the other hand, even accomplishing something small from scratch is a huge victory. Scientists, you have my respect.

I have learned, even in those failures where you feel it is a loss and a waste, there is learning to be had. That is very important. No one in the world will have all of the same failures that you do. That means your learning curve is different than everyone else in the world. I think that means that some day you will be able to solve a problem that no one else in the world has solved. Maybe you have already solved unique problems like that. Maybe I'm totally wrong.

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