Research Away from Home

Shampoo, toothbrush, deodorant…Falcon tubes? Preparing for a solo out-of-town research trip is a new experience for me. I’m the first to admit that I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to packing. I am all too familiar with that gut-wrenching “I’m definitely forgetting something” feeling. However, forgetting your toothbrush pales in comparison to forgetting an essential piece of equipment for your field research. With my first long-distance research trip under my belt, I thought others might find it helpful if I shared a few things I learned during this experience.

It’s the oldest trick in the book and seems like such a simple idea but make a list of all the things you need to bring – it really does work! Making a packing list forces you to sit down and really think about what you’re going to need. For an even better list, don’t just write down what you need but also the quantity of each thing you will need.

On a similar note, bring more than you think you’ll need. If you believe you might need something at some point, just bring it. Worst case scenario, you wasted a little bit of suitcase space but it’s better than getting to your field site and realizing you wish you had something you left at home. Likewise, bring a larger quantity of items than you anticipate your work will require. If you plan to use 50 Falcon tubes, bring 60 or 70 or even 100 if you can spare the room in your bag. We all know from experience that these things tend to be used a lot faster than you expect or sometimes end up getting lost in the shuffle. Having a little bit of a buffer is a good bet hedging strategy.

A great suggestion from my advisor: write a note explaining to TSA why I have 75 plastic tubes full of mysterious liquid along with a bunch of odd looking filters and syringes. Surprisingly, most other researchers I talked to say they travel for work with unusual things fairly often and have never had a problem. Still, I think it’s better to be safe and leave a note on the top of your bag just in case.

Finally, having a home base at your destination is always a plus when you can arrange one. I was lucky enough to have Tom Miller’s lab at Florida State University adopt me for a few days. Not only did they allow me to use their space and large equipment I couldn’t possibly travel with, but they also provided me with helpful advice and great company!

Does preparing for these trips ever get any easier?! That I don’t know the answer to. Perhaps one of you old pros could fill us in! If I had to guess, I would say not completely but with some planning and preparedness it might become a little less stressful. At least… I hope it does.

This entry was posted in Blog Posts, Featured and tagged , , .
Bookmark the permalink.
Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.