Failure and error: Alejandro Parodi Parodi

Failed experiment, rejected essay: In science it is quickly labeled as a failure. And talking about it? I do not think so. Colleagues do that in this department. Because failure is useful. This time it’s Alejandro Parodi Parodi, a postdoctoral researcher in farming systems ecology.

“During my doctoral studies, I studied the sustainability of raising black soldier fly larvae for animal feed and food. I wanted to know how much ammonia and greenhouse gases the larvae emit, so I raised them in breathing chambers at Carus, the animal testing facility on campus. I couldn’t I only used the rooms for a few weeks, so there was little room for error.Caros’ colleagues also urged me to be careful with sensitive equipment.

The two breathing chambers are metal containers the size of a kitchen oven with a transparent lid on top. In each room I piled three boxes of food and ten thousand caterpillars the size of a grain of rice. I sealed the rooms and left the lab as clean as possible.

The next day I looked through the cover. I didn’t know what I saw! Thousands of larvae escaped from the boxes and stained the entire interior of the rooms. It was chaos. With my background in ecology and nature conservation, until then I had only conducted experiments in nature, where you can’t control almost anything. At Karos, I worked in closed rooms with a stable climate, so I expected nothing to go wrong.

Thousands of larvae escaped from the boxes and stained the entire interior of the rooms

When that happened, I – as a junior PhD student – became very insecure. Maybe I wasn’t good enough, maybe I failed, I disappointed others.

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But when I told my supervisors about the experience, they laughed it off. I didn’t have to worry too much because something like this happens all the time. This helped me put it into perspective. In the following days, I solved the problem and completed the test successfully. Looking back, it’s good to have expectations and it’s healthy to feel anxious when things go differently. But overprotection does not help prevent or overcome relapses.

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Megan Vasquez

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