Prompt 1: I was a research assistant intern so I was in charge of an animal behavior project. I analyzed videos to determine if a feed additive was affecting feeding behaviors. I also assisted with the other projects through sampling and analysis of samples.
Prompt 2: My view on how we figure out and then explain new information changed. I grew up assuming research was only done by geniuses that understood everything about their field. I never realized that everything we know comes with a question mark. We aren’t allowed to call anything a fact because new research could disprove what we just discovered. It makes you question what, if anything, is true. We’re discovering new things every day, but along with that we’re disproving ourselves constantly. I like the pursuit of knowledge, but I guess I find it a bit disheartening because the most amazing discovery could mean nothing in a few hundred years when we have new tools and new information. That being said, I still think the constant evolution of our knowledge is one of the great hallmarks of our species, and something I still have every intention of being involved in.
Prompt 3: One of my responsibilities as an intern was to read up on previous literature. While I was doing that, I ran across a lot of differing methods that were supposed to determine the same thing. Sometimes these differing methods caused differing conclusions that should’ve been the same. Research seems to be very organized, but there’s always room for argument in methodology or even conclusions that were drawn. For example, two different softwares could be used to determine what affects 3NOP has on eating behaviors in dairy cattle, but if they’re analyzing for different things, or even analyzing at different times in different areas of the world, the conclusions could be extremely different.
During the summer I also had the opportunity to present at the ADSA National Research Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was presenting a poster that had a sister poster about lysophospholipid’s affect on milk production in dairy cattle. The presenter of the sister poster, a graduate student I’ve worked with for the last year, told me someone else at the conference was doing research on lysophospholipid’s affect on milk production. We had discovered that it increased milk production, while they had determined that it had no affect. We had done the research in similar areas of the US, so it was kind of strange to have someone say that they’d disproved our conclusion, and that we’d disproved theirs. This ended up strengthening my view that research conclusions have a large question mark at the end of them.
Over the summer I had a very interesting and somewhat mind boggling conversation with a graduate student I worked with. He had worked in human research before changing to animal research and he told me a story about human nutrition research that changed my perspective on it completely. He essentially implied that all human nutrition research is a shot in the dark and none of it really means anything. He explained that you could tell people to eat a specific diet, but they never really listened and therefore the conclusions were not to really be trusted. This might explain why every ten years or so we decide to either hate or love butter.
Prompt 4: This conversation essentially made me doubt a lot of what I see on human nutrition research, and to trust my own experiences to determine what works for me. All these experiences made me realize why and how scientific conclusions can be argued. I always took research conclusions for 100% fact, but I realize now that they’re really not. They’re more of what we think is the best possible explanation of the results we’ve found. This is important for my professional life, as I can now look at previous methods that have been used and think how I can make them more accurate, instead of thinking they’re the only way to do things. I will also use what I learned in my personal life to not believe everything I read, and to actually look at the materials and methods behind a study to determine if it should be taken as fact.