Last week was our final research week, and we made it count! We’ve now done infections on two different strains of C. elegans. Our results? While there are subtle phenotypes still to be explored, the obvious ones that we were looking for don’t seem to be different between the infected and control worms. What we have is some beautiful negative data.
Negative data sounds bad, doesn’t it. It’s still data, though, and it’s not really bad. If you’re getting negative data, that means that your experiment is working properly, but you’re not getting the result you were hoping for. As a mentor of mine once told me, you have to let the science tell you what’s going on. In our case, the data is lovely (excellent images, plenty of worms exposed to dermatophytes, etc). But, for what we were measuring, there just wasn’t a difference between the control and infections. So it’s good data, but it’s negative.
This is the part of science that is rarely covered in classes. We carefully design most classroom experiments so that each lab activity illustrates a particular point and you don’t end up with negative data. How nice it would be if real research worked that way! In research, asking one question might get you an answer, but it also generally leads to a million more questions. That’s how I feel at the end of this project. We’ve answered a simple question, but there are so many more I want to test. Maybe next summer.