So I am completely buried in work now, and feeling kind of overwhelmed. Today, I had one of those moments that makes me remember why I wanted to make the move to academia! One of my students came to me a few days ago to tell me that a procedure we did lots of times in the past is no longer working. We tried a few things, but no luck--it wasn't a quick fix or a technique problem.
The student spent a little time looking up some more detailed background information, and then came to me with a plan. The student implemented the plan (which still didn't work), but made a crucial observation of the mode of failure. On the student's own initiative, they implemented a new improved plan which not only solves the problem, it gives us new insight into the process (and makes our soon to be written paper about it that much stronger!) On the first day of the failed process, my student came to me for a fix. Just a few days later, this same student was coming to me to discuss the science behind what we were seeing in the lab, and the implications for our future work. Amazing!
It is so awesome to see my inexperienced students becoming scientists. It is just awesome to see when it all suddenly clicks together for them.