Basically, during the summer I am free of all coursework and teaching responsibilities and I am able to focus 100% on my research. Having an uninterrupted day has been so incredibly helpful for my productivity.
Yesterday I gave my second lab meeting since starting my research project and I feel like it went really well. Basically it's a presentation I give that summarizes my project and all the work I've done so far. It's crazy to see how far I've come since I joined the lab in January.
My research this semester has been a little rough...often its seemed like two steps forward and one step back. About 50% of the time my experiments fail (for different reasons, mostly technical) and I have to redo weeks worth of work. Science is so incredibly slow! Also, there is a steep learning curve as I try to master all the techniques I need for my experiments.
The constant day-to day failure can really wear on a person. But when I look back over the whole semester, I think, "Wow, look at all I've accomplished."
I have to constantly remind myself that this Ph.D. program is a marathon, not a sprint...or even a 5K (haha.)
I enjoy the challenge and mental stimulation of thinking about my project, designing experiments, and trouble shooting. But it's mixed in with the actual hand's on execution of my experiments to break up the day. I really do love the process of science. It can definitely be discouraging at times, but I'm learning and growing so much.