Controls, Control, & The Lack Thereof

// August 3rd, 2007 // Blog

When conducting scientific experiments, controls are absolutely necessary, in order to establish the validity of one's results. Ideally, you should have both a positive control (something that will definitely give you a result), and a negative control (something that should not). If they both work as expected, then you know the result of your test 'something' – whether this result be positive or negative – can be trusted. Controls also yield important information that can help during optimization and troubleshooting.

In fact, i get more frustrated over not knowing why something is not working, than over any other failure in the lab. Once i have figured out the problem, i suddenly feel relieved, even if i still don't have anything interesting to report, in terms of data.

Today, alhamdulillah, Allāh allowed me to realize that something i've been trying to accomplish for 1.5 years, is going to remain unaccomplished. That thought has the potential to be pretty gutting, if it wasn't for the fact that He also allowed me to know why – at least, from a technical point of view. I have no idea “why” from a philosophical point of view, but i trust that it must be for a good reason: Qadrullahi wa ma sha'a fa'ala (it is as Allāh wills, and He does what He wishes).

At the end of the day, if Allāh didn't create my protein of interest with any exciting purpose in mind, what am i to do about it? Or if i have tried multiple means to answer a question, only for it to remain unanswered, as long as those efforts were carried out in a logical and sound manner, can i really be blamed? OK, so i won't get my name on papers with the last scenario, but i'm pretty tired of beating myself up over things that i cannot control. If my examiners want to fail me for not being Miss Omnipotent: go ahead, punks, make my day.

My supervisor hasn't yet been informed, but now that i know what i know, i intend for this to be my last day in the lab – at least, until i submit my thesis. Ideally, i'd like to do some work in between submission, and the viva, so i can go in armed with some back-up data, in case the examiners are not impressed with what they have read (Allāh forbid). If i was meant to have the results that I have been seeking all this time, i would have had them by now. I can't waste anymore time trying, and will just have to face the – hmm, not music… something more halalnasheed? – with whatever little i have.

I just have to work my butt off until Ramadaan, to make sure my thesis is completed on time, God-willing. But i think it will be easier, now that this load is off my mind. Besides, i really have no choice in the matter: tight deadlines induce the production of stress, which in turn, increase levels of motivation, thus resulting in heightened productivity; it's one of the few biological pathways that i am very familiar with! Shame i won't be examined on it – heh.

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