Being a Research Assistant is Much More than JUST Research...
Whenever people ask me what I do, I always tell them I assist the professor in her research. Which is true, in many ways.
But I gotta say that I didn't quite appreciate that I would be using a lot more than just research skills when I took on this job (yep, naive!).
These past two years, I have done everything from playing counsellor (do you know how much heartache there is in academia?) to building bookshelves and sewing puppet clothes.
|Yes, that is me sewing puppet clothes...|
|And here all the puppets are now dressed!|
It's quite funny in some ways, because when applying for research jobs, we go out of our way to show how skilled we are in doing all things research-related: understanding study-design, subject recruitment, data collection, statistic skills, data analysis, report-writing. And then, of course, there are the study- and research-specific skills, like MATLAB programming, experience with fMRI, qualitative coding, and the like.
But we often forget that a big part of getting research done sometimes relies on softer skills, like talking to parents of young children to bring them to the lab, the ability to get a 3-year-old to cooperate with you and sit through the entire task, being able to problem-solve (they don't sell puppet clothes that fit your need? ok, so sew them!), and sometimes just getting down and dirty with whatever needs to be done.
So, yes, I assist the professor in her work. Sometimes that means ploughing through stacks of publications to find the information she wants, and sometimes, it means picking up a hammer and putting together bookcases for our lab's overflowing supply of books.
Therapeutic? You bet.