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Sunday March 14, 2004

An answer

Whenever I have major conflict raging in my head, I'm usually left hunting for resolution months, sometimes years, before I get any peace of mind. Some major ones are still raging, having been started in my days as a plaid skirt-wearing schoolgirl. I can now say with absolute confidence, though, that I've just experienced the shortest intra-Drina war of my life, and I've gotten the answer I was looking for only days after I first posed the question.

I was wondering whether I should stick with life in the lab in spite of the call to another direction. I've been doing some research in animal learning (more poop cleaning than researching, but I can still call myself a scientific investigator) and my time there has been an awesome learning experience. Before I joined up, though, my career goals didn't involve experimenting on rats, and I wasn't sure if I should stick with it or bail.

Today I participated in a rat perfusion. If you don't know what that is, count yourself blessed. It's a gruesome act that involved stopping a beating heart and retrieving a brain. And I was fascinated. I got to see the body in action... without feelings of disgust. I wasn't squeamish; blood and guts don't gross me out. But watching an animal I've cared for since day one get it's life sucked out of it also gave me an unsettling feeling that hasn't gone away. And I don't think it ever will.

Animal research is a necessary evil. Without it, the suffering experienced by people would be many times more than that of research animals. That makes it necessary. But in such research, the animals do not give up their lives (as scientists like to say) for the sake of science. Rather, their lives are taken, and the stress of solitary confinement, shock, and surgery is inflicted on them involuntarily. That makes it evil. And being a necessary evil, it has to be performed by people who can look past the evil and focus on the necessity.

For this reason, I've finally figured out that my life's work will focus on psychological research that will someday really help people... I just won't be using animals to do it. I don't regret the experience I've had, but I've tried on the lab coat and the damn thing is just too tight on me. It was made to fit someone else, and I'm happy to move on my way. I've got some important work to do.


Drina, I'm happy that you've found an answer to that "major conflict raging in your head". :)

Courtney on March 15, 2004 11:03 AM

Maybe that lab coat doesn't fit cuz its not Jen's... just!!!!! :)

Deb on March 16, 2004 09:30 PM