At first, I want to apologize for the long absence. I’ve been busy and lazy, the worst combination of all. But I had to share this little discovery I made a few weeks ago, a new app for Drosophilists ! (drum rolls …..)
It is made by Genesee Sceintific, the FlyStuff.com division in particular. Weirdly, when it comes to the fly room, I’m a bit old-fashioned. I like scribbling crosses on pieces of papers, looking phenotypes up in these good old heavy fly books.
Nevertheless, this app has a undeniable advantage. I basically consist of pictures, description of the most current mutants and species. Comes in handy if you quickly need to check up what a Bar eye or a Curly wing looks like. (
Ok, nobody would look up a curly wing) There are also quick links to FlyBase.
Now, the best at last … There is little nerdy addition: A virtual fly pad. You can train your fly sorting skills, and even enter the competition with other geeks drosophilists by sharing your scores online. Ok, past the few minutes of excitement, it gets a bit boring, and has nothing to do with the real-life fly pad experience.
An other excellent point is that the app is free, and soon available for the android users too. So guys, go to the App Store and download it, it’s definitely worth it !
Remember your science course in high school ? The first time you saw things trough a microscope ? I remember that we at some point watched cells of an onion’s skin, or microscopic animals in water from a pond. I loved looking at these things you never would have suspected to be there, so organized and beautiful that it then seemed evident.
Generally, we next had to draw the things we saw, which was the annoying part of the process. Couldn’t we just keep watching ?
Well, today I looked for half an hour at some cells I had prepared from Drosophila embryos. And instead of drawing, I made a picture with my iPhone trough the objective. (
Take that, old biology teachers ) I truly felt like a child looking at these things as if they were brand new and fabulous.
And yes, I know it looks like nothing, or even a bit gross and crappy. They will probably die in a few days too, but still. They were cells, and some of them were contracting, and moving.
I just felt so nice to still have these moments of awe and wonder, I truly hope they never go away. Despite the fact that I get used to do science everyday, hear people “selling their story”, “sell there work”, “sell themselves”, and slowly get sucked in the “science business”; it is good to have a reminder of why you are really doing this for.
It’s because it can be just incredibly cool and thrilling. Cf. a previous post: The thrill, aka the reason why we do science.
This week I am back in Strasbourg, the city where I have been a student for 5 years. There are so many places, tastes, and people there who remind me of great times. On one hand, the undergrad times feel very far away; because being a PhD student is an entire another world. One the other hand, it still feels like one of my “homes”, and I could still walk over there to my old bench, and continue experimenting.
At the time I was 17 and started the Bachelor, the University was called “Louis Pasteur”, and not “Université de Strasbourg” yet. Louis Pasteur, the great scientist, was actually a professor in Strasbourg around 1850. So yesterday, I walked in front of one of the houses where he used to live, and took a little picture. It’s in a beautiful little small street near the cathedral. It’s these sort of things you don’t care for when you actually live there,and walk in front of it all the time; but that you really notice once you’re only an occasional visitor.
Have a great week-end, people.
Some of the people I worked with have been a great inspiration for me. And overall, I really like to take a few steps back to think about how science works in general. The other day, trying to decide between which experiments to do first, I thought about what a great supervisor once told me: “The most important experiments are the ones you don’t do”.
In the same lines, Louis Armstrong once said that the most important notes were the ones he didn’t play; and Rodin said that the sculpting process was about removing the stone that was not part of the sculpture.
It is unsettling a first, but let me explain. In the case of scientific research, we all know that we have only limited amounts of time to discover new things, and make a point of it. Very often, I find myself in front of an ocean of possibilities, curiosities, and things that a want to try and test. One option to tackle this is to get students and let them help you. The other is to make choices, more or less rationally. Choosing, not what is the most important, and what is a bit less important, and leave it on the side for later. Only so that you uncover the main path, or the critical experiment. By the way, people now call this the “money experiment” or the “money figure”. Not sure I approve that appellation, but you get the idea.
Being in the second-half of a PhD means doing this on a weekly basis, and I sometime regrets early days of innocent and random wanderings trough experiments. I am a least grateful that my PI let me do that for a while, if only it could last a bit longer …
A little addition to the iLab this evening … not directly an app, but a piece of software for your Mac. I apologize to eventual PC-users out there, but you don’t know what your missing
As a apple-addict, I love things that are intuitive, simple to use, and sleek. No need to say that in my opinion, Illustrator, the very famous graphic design software, does not fulfill any of these requirements. Like really not.
So, when I got to the point where I felt like drawing my own schemes, sketches, doodles, figures, I look for alternatives and found SKETCH in the App Store. It look easier to use then Paint, but does everything a graphic does software should do.
Needless to say that you don’t need to google “How to make a triangle in Illustrator ?” to find out how to draw a triangle.
You can visit the website of the developer if you want to look the stuff you can do with it. And here the link to the app store.
The only negative thing about it is the price. Of course it is not expensive compared to the Adobe Suite, but 49$ is not on the cheap side. I bought is about a year ago and is was 3 times cheaper … of course they improved it a lot, but I don’t think it justifies the huge price increase.
But if you don’t won’t to pull your hair out because of Illustrator, and like graphic design made easy, you know this is actually possible.
When people ask me why I do a PhD, I never really now what to answer … Is “because this is what I like to do” not enough ? But what do I actually like about it ? Some days, I am really not sure anymore; but then comes that moment. A defining moment reminding you why you like doing science. I think it applies to me, and I am sure it is true for many other scientists.
It’s the thrill.
The thrill when you suddenly think that are on the path of discovering something new.
It’s that moment of solitude that you generally don’t immediately share with anybody else. It’s that impression of having something truly great and novel, and the certainty that you are the first and only one in the world having that thought at that precise moment. These are the most magical and precious moments I had in my science life …
Of course, there are different kinds and levels of thrills.
The intellectual thrill happens only when two neurons that never connected before suddenly do so. You have a new idea, no data to support it, but it sounds brilliant to you. Sadly, after a few days of evaluating the idea, or “submiting it for internal review” to you colleagues, you often leave it on the side of the road because you realize it was more science-fiction then science.
The practical thrill happens when you get new exciting data. It is more solid then the intellectual thrill, and is obviously more exciting. That kind of thrill can influence your next experiments and interests, and actually change or embellish your research project.
This week I had an “in silico” thrill while analyzing some data. It’s somewhere in between an intellectual and practical thrill (I am more a wet lab kind of person). Maybe in a week I will leave it in the back of my head, or toss it away; but for the moment I am still obsessed with it …