Yesterday morning I was driving to work at the hospital and heard a song I haven’t heard in almost twenty years. When I was in college this was “my jam.” I refer, of course, to lyrical poet Skee-Lo’s smash hit “I Wish.”
I spent many an afternoon dancing around my dorm room with my roommates to this song. I think I could empathize with Skee-Lo because I was at a point in my life where I was looking forward to what I might be, seeing professionals more senior than me with the career I wanted. Looking forward to a time in my life when I might achieve full baller status.
baller (noun) meaning: 1. One who exhibits a consistent proficency at-, or exuberant love for the game of basketball. 2. One whose person has been fully and successfully established in numerous social circles (esp. one who is extremely popular with both the male and female members of any given social group) 3. One whose status in society has been earned by one’s possession of “game” (that is, proficiency at the game of life)
And, like Skee-Lo, I drove a hooptie around Southern California. My 1989 Mustang had no air conditioning and doors that didn’t always open. It’s hard to strut after you’ve had to crawl out of the window to escape your car, but the fuzzy dice, window tint, and stereo saved it. (And it was a Mustang! That’s a cool car no matter the condition.)
Back to now.
“I Wish” was stuck in my head all day. Walking down the hall to meet a colleague. Sitting in a meeting. Reading a paper. All the while, bobbing my head and thinking “I wish I was a little bit taller…” Now, I must confess to always being about 5 (ok, 15) years behind the times and this led me to contact my dear friend, hip hop maven, and scientist chic “cooler than me”, DNLee to ask the question, “Are people still aspiring to be ‘ballers’ these days?
Yup. That’s a sentence written by a fellow human being. I’m not proud.
DNLee informed me that the term “baller” has evolved and that “Baller implies one who has and spends a lot of money. Boss implies just a bad ass, you can’t mess with my science game.” She provided me with some educational material that I found very helpful, leading me to reframe the subsequent part of this. I am in her debt.
Spending the afternoon with some students, working on new research project, made me think that we spend much of our training trying to learn to operate “like a boss.” While I have certainly not attained the full boss status of many of my scientific colleagues, I have learned some valuable lessons that I think have helped me along the way and I thought I would start sharing them here in what, thanks to DNLee’s guidance, I shall dub “Like a Boss Lessons.”
The hardest thing I learned in graduate school was how to write a hypothesis. It’s funny that this was once so hard for me because, in our lab meetings now, I am known for always asking “What is your hypothesis?” I can’t tell you why this was so hard, being one of the most basic things we do as scientists, but I know that there were times my poor labmates had to almost shake a hypothesis out of me. I’d write completely unhelpful hypotheses like “Antioxidants will be different in smokers.” Oh, the shame. The shame of it all.
I think I tended to get bogged down in the details of the background or methods and would lose sight clearly telling people what motivated the experiment in the first place. Then, thankfully, one of my mentors offered me a very simple lesson in forming a good hypothesis that I still use.
A good hypothesis should always have four key components:
1) Identification of the subject or model (red)
2) Identification of the condition or stressor (green)
3) Directionality (brown)
4) Outcome measure (blue)
If you include these components, the basic experimental design falls out of the hypothesis.
Here are a few examples from the literature with these four components highlighted:
“…We hypothesized that…HAPE-susceptible people with higher vascular pressures would develop more exercise-induced VA/Q mismatch…” (Source)
“We hypothesized…that eNOS-mediated vasodilation would be attenuated in healthy, middle-aged humans.” (Source)
“…we hypothesized that women would exhibit enhanced sympatholysis during the early luteal phase compared with the early follicular phase of the menstrual cycle…(Source)
I still got back to that basic lesson every time I write a hypothesis and hope you all find it helpful.
Are there any lessons that you’ve learned that have helped you in forming a hypothesis?