It’s not easy being an electrophysiologist. Most of the time we’re under a lot of pressure and not just from our supervisors and managers, but from ourselves too. Sometimes we go for weeks, even months, without a single successful experiment. We know that it has worked for us before, but now that that all important deadline is coming up, electrophysiology refuses to play ball.
When asked “what’s wrong?”, most of the time the answer will be “I just don’t know”. This is not because electrophysiologists are lazy and have no idea what they’re doing. On the contrary, we’re very acutely aware that many, many different things have to be just right in order for an experiment to work – and sometimes even that is not enough.
Going through the list of things that have to be absolutely perfect can be time consuming, but any electrophysiologist worth their salt will have a vague idea of what the weak links are likely to be.
Sometimes the problem can be really obvious.
Occasionally stress can be released in the form of exclamation marks and profanities.
But when the stress gets too much, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away, have a cup of tea and calm down.
Be careful! Sometimes pent up stress can erupt when you least expect it:
A group of PhD students were in the breakout space one afternoon, taking a break from work. Everyone was happily chatting away and conversation turned to favourite Family Guy sketches. Someone quoted a particularly funny phrase and everyone laughed. One person in particular laughed so hard, he could barely breathe. Everyone starts laughing again and this time two more people laughed so much that they struggled to speak. The uncontrollable laughing continued, but not everyone was doing it anymore. Only three people were laughing, but their sounds of laughter started to sound more and more like sobs. There was a bit of an awkward silence and one by one people started to leave and return to the lab. The PhD students wiping their eyes and taking deep breaths looked round at each other and realised that they were electrophysiologists.
Like I said before: if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry and believe me, we’ve cried a lot.