Dealing with Demotivation, Defending Proposals for Funding, and Research Trips in the Philippines | Filipina Scientist Weighs In


Hi, my name is Chona
I’m a scientist, I’m a teacher, and I’m trying to make a blog.

The past couple of weeks here in the Philippines has been marked with a lot of change. And I’m the type of person where change, whether or not I like it, freaks me out. So my emotions have been see-sawing quite a bit. This has made me demotivated at work, and most of my productivity recently has been driven by fear of failure, or letting other people down.

And I wonder, for any of my science fans out there, how do you deal with demotivation? How do you quiet the noise around you so that you can focus again on what’s important? Heck, how do you know what’s important?

Last week, I could barely get out of bed. But I’m a bit relieved that this week, I’ve started meditating again and getting back on my exercise regimen.
Meditating for me was tough, because I have a noisy headspace. The most difficult part for me would be starting the meditation, focusing on my breath, and keeping my focus there. It always makes me feel relieved, and refreshed. There are days when I feel more rested after a 10 minute meditation than a full night’s sleep.

From a bit of research I found that this happens because meditation activates the autonomic nervous system — which is responsible for the involuntary processes in our body including heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, and even sexual arousal. This is also combined with an increase in parasympathetic nerve activity which brings our body to the quiet rest and digest mode. So I guess with meditation, our bodies get to focus on making sure our organ systems are functioning at their best.

Anyway, I don’t have much time to rest and digest today because today we our scheduled to wait our turn to defend the extension of our DOST project on mangrove crabs. I’ve been project leader for almost three years now, but I’ve been working as a research assistant for 6 or 7 years now. And throughout the 9 to 10 years, it’s like my life as a scientist has been a series of sessions trying to defend the science what we do.

On one hand, I think it keeps us sharp. Makes us be on a constant state of calibration to increase efficiency, and also helps remind us why science is important.
On the other hand, it’s exhausting. The logistics part of science, at least for me, is not fun. Getting signatures for the reports, aligning budgets, it’s tough. And I’m lucky I have a great team who has an amazing set of skills — and patience — to help me deal with all of these.

But I remember when I was much younger, when I started working as an RA, I had zero idea about how research was funded in the Philippines. At the back of my head I thought it was automatic. And it was a steep learning curve for me, figuring out the ropes on writing a proposal for funding, which is quite a bit different from writing a thesis proposal, and then defending it in front of a committee. I wish there was a way for us to incorporate some of these things to the curriculum of our science students whether in undergrad or even Masters. I remember learning a lot of laboratory techniques, most of them obsolete now, but not much about figuring out how to get the money to pay for the experiments that I want to do.

I’m really lucky to have been mentored, to have been allowed to observe all these processes, because I’ve seen a lot of amazing scientists flounder and give up on Philippine systems because nobody was there to show them these processes, that can be confusing at times.

Anyway, our schedule for the defense is at around 2:00pm. This can be moved forward or delayed significantly dependent on how well or how bad the other research teams do. I’m feeling a lot nervous, specially since it’s not just about a passing grade anymore but the livelihood of the students that are now part of the team. So wish me luck!

We have a lot of exciting events happening this week — we’re scheduled to go to the Marine Station this weekend to check on the growth of crabs — whether some of them grew better or worse dependent on some traditional diet that we’ve observed. We want to check on whether some traditional species identification processes work with crabs that are growing in similar environments versus in the wild. And one of my undergraduate thesis students is also set to check the effects of phosphate and silicate pollutants on the growth of juvenile crabs. So we’re off for a busy weekend by the beach.

I’m using it to be excited and get through the tedium of this week. But what do you think of content like this? A bit more chill, minimal to no edits, and something you can listen to if you’re not available to watch? I’d love to hear your comments — specially about motivation techniques. And I’d love to hear your questions on the daily life of a Filipina scientist.

You can also listen or watch to a recording of this blog through this link:

Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, your resident Filipina scientist, in the comments section below.
And remember, when in doubt, always use your (con)science!

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