Two days ago, I told my post doc (a post doctorate researcher who has been guiding my research) I was worried about my progress in lab. He responded with, “don’t worry, you have a great story.” This was not something I hadn’t heard before, but it dawned on me that every researcher is essentially a storyteller.

The end result of research is the production of a paper. Research is useless when hoarded and kept secret; it aches to be revealed to the world. On a practical level, this does two things 1) increase the general knowledge of society (, but more importantly 2) provides a marker for progression for the researchers involved.

The irony is that when most people undertake a science PhD program, they can expect long hours in lab and social interactions to be limited to literally a handful of people. Awareness of current events and ability for small talk persists, but your entire world essentially boils down to a tiny corner of the universe. You are a prospector kneeling down in the middle of an enormous river, sifting through the mud, hoping to find a nugget of truth. Well, prospectors of truth is definitely too grand of a description for scientists, so I’ll go with prospectors of stories.

The centrality of storytelling to a researcher is really unappreciated, unless you watch a presentation. It truly is a performance. Each sentence is balanced for time, each slide represents months of colossal effort, the body tenses with excitement and joy. Speech will accelerate, words will collide, and arms will flail.

Could you expect anything else? On a daily basis, more often than not, experiments are frustrating, painful, and disappointing. But in these moments, it is as if all the frustration, pain, and disappointment of the past months are bottled up and instantly converted to joy. Its as if the researcher is calling out “Here I am! See how I have solved the universe!” No matter how little the project may seem to others, there is such a pure sense of accomplishment that comes from this.

Some days when I feel like I am trudging through work, it is the reminder of this feeling and the urge to tell a wonderful story that drives me.