As an undergraduate, I used to be fascinated reading journal articles. Seeing not only the amount of effort that went into doing science but also the writing and publishing for the world to see. There would have been a lot going on behind the scenes. It was something I aspired to do but even then, I knew it was going to be a long tough climb.
I started my PhD feeling a little overwhelmed. Looking up at the mountain I had to conquer, I started the climb with a monkey on my back, constantly reminding me that publishing was something I had not yet achieved despite completing my Honours.
I always had pride in my persistence. As an athlete, and competitive one at that, I always set myself goals with an end goal in sight: to win. Prior to winning my first football championship, I had played in several others…and lost. It made the feeling of victory that much sweeter. I had got the monkey off my back. My next championship victory followed not long after. It was a recipe I believed in: conquer the initial climb, enjoy the view at the top, and everything else will follow so as long as you continue to work hard.
Fast forward to the final year of my PhD. Not only had I made great strides in my climb, but the weight of that monkey on my back was getting lighter. I had learnt to carry it with me not as a burden, but as a reminder. Learning the ins and outs of what was required to plan my research, conduct it, write, and publish for the first time was exciting and something I will always value. It was not without challenges, however.
Working as part of a team, we first had to rigorously plan out the experiment and conduct it successfully. Following, we had to plan the analysis and put together reproducible code to ensure transparency. Writing up the manuscript seemed simple enough once we had mapped out our narrative and goals, however it took many sets of eyes and edits to ensure it was a worthy document to submit. Following submission, I was warned there was a decent chance at being rejected, however we received the manuscript back with positive comments, although a lot needed to be changed for it to be considered for publication. Putting together the reply for the editor was very time consuming but we knew it made our manuscript much stronger. After submitting with our edits, I had received a reply about a month later that it had been accepted for publication and was available online on my birthday, a pleasant surprise. Something I need to stress is that while this is my first published paper as first author, I could not have gotten here without the support of my lab members and supervisors who were with me every step of the way.
For now, that monkey is gone, but not forgotten.
My first published paper as first author is on measuring zebrafish anxiety with a new efficient assay that can better detect between-individual differences. Check it out here.