My very first laboratory in my very first year of university was a chemistry laboratory. The very first step in the experiment involved a Bunsen burner, and we were supplied with matches to light it. This surprised me a little, since at my high school we had trigger-operated sparking devices for this purpose – but no matter, I struck the match, lit the burner, waved the match to extinguish it and tossed it into the garbage bin. Not long after, the lab filled with smoke, the fire alarm went off, and I realized to my horror than my garbage bin was on fire.

Outside the building, while we waited for the fire department, I had to admit to my enraged TA that I was responsible for the fire. My main thoughts were: “Am I a chronic screw-up?” “Do I have the right stuff for university science?” “What am I going to tell my parents?” Although that TA never stopped giving me side-eye, I did, through practice and preparation, eventually develop common sense and proficiency in the laboratory, which set me on the course for my career.

I guess my message would be that nobody has a journey without at least some bumps, and all we can do is doggedly continue to march forward.