We're a little crazy, about science!

How to fail giving a presentation

Today is the big day! The day where I showcase the stuff I’ve done. It’s a bit anticlimactic to be honest because I haven’t had time to do a full analysis, just a very general overview. It was COVID you see, we shut down for a few months there so I didn’t get any data collected. When we finally got started again I had weeks to do the analysis, not months. Needless to say it’s not good.

First, I’m not really failing at presenting. We did the work, we just haven’t had a chance to look at all the stuff we found. All that means is I need to explain that’s what happened and work on getting it done for the next meeting. It’s not a good result, but it’s how it worked out and there is nothing I can do about that unfortunately.

The title of the post comes from the fact that I’m not thrilled with this experiment. I’m not happy with the methodology, I’m not excited about the conclusions we can draw, but more importantly at the moment, it doesn’t look like we have anything. That’s probably the biggest fuck you I could think of, there’s no journal of null results so there is a possibility I’ve done all this work to fall flat. That’s tough to say right now, but the truth is, the differences we found between experimental conditions were very subtle and I don’t like subtle. It makes me uneasy because there’s room for error and I haven’t calculated how much room we have to say we found something or not.

That’s another side of the analysis I need to do speaking of which, determining the amount of variance we have in the data to determine if the differences between the two conditions are significant or not. If I had that information the presentation today would feel a little more formal, or at least more real. I hate showing data and pretending something is there when it may not be the case. It feels like I’m lying and I don’t like having to say something I don’t know to be true.

So that’s basically how we fail at giving a presentation, at least in my eyes. I’m stuck talking about something I’m not comfortable talking about and making conclusions, or at least suggesting conclusions that I’m not comfortable suggesting. This doesn’t feel like science to me, but then again the meeting isn’t about science, not really. It’s the business side of things that we’re focusing on and my PI has unfortunately left me hung out to dry so to speak. We haven’t discussed what I’ve done, how I did it, or the “result” from the experiment. I’m going in woefully unprepared. Today is day two, yesterday I already gave a dry run poster presentation on what we have so if I fail, at least I fail with grace.

Sometimes an experiment gives you crappy results and you have to roll with it. That’s where we’re at and I’m trying to make the best of it. At this point I’m just hoping my PI won’t be too pissed off. I’ve already angered him enough for my PhD. But here’s the thing, don’t feel bad for me, it’s part of the journey and as long as I’m allowed to continue that journey I’ll take it as a win and a learning experience, even if it’s a shitty one. At least that’s what I keep telling myself…


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