After christmas break I dragged myself back to the lab (ok, I was happy to return) and though of this professor who once told during a master course :
“Laziness is a great quality for a scientist”
That was a bit unsettling at first, my overall felling being that scientist are in the great majority hard workers (but is it really work ? ;-)). For example, injecting 1400 adult Drosophila‘s today is not an act of laziness !
Actually, his reasoning was slightly more twisted:
The more lazy the scientist = the less experiment he does
The less experiments he does = the better his choose the good ones to do
And he focuses on succeeding immediately to avoid unnecessary extra replicates or troubleshooting work due to inattention.
Beyond the witticism, there is some truth in the fact that good scientists are always the ones who can choose well the key experiments, and make them look perfect.
Although I don’t like the idea that much, I do believe that part of the success of a scientific career relies greatly on the people who trained you, the labs where the training took place, and the field you “fell” into.
On that subject, I’d like to share a link to an article written by Ronald Dale in the latest issue of Nature Medicine, in the “Lasker Award” special edition. Is is entitled: “How lucky can one be? A perspective from a young scientist at the right place at the right time”
The article in not open access, but I hope you’re part of an institution paying for the access; because it is a nice read.
Basically, this person has been lucky and hard working at the same time, which is the perfect combination for success in the tough world of academic science 🙂
He started his own lab at 27; after publishing shitloads of Cell papers, and doing some ground breaking research. And he basically gives advices to us, the young scientists. Among them are the importance of having great mentors, and squeezing down your laundry time (yep) ! I will not spoil it more, but just give the proper reference for it !
I’m still a little bit in my Drosophila’s-are-the-best phase, and I remembered today one of the many witty quotes from Alfred Sturtevant, one of the father’s of Drosophila genetics, who worked with Thomas Hunt Morgan himself. (More on his life and achievements here)
This man had a lot of wisdom to say: “They [the flies] will fool you every time”. Every person who ever worked in a fly lab knows it’s true. I think about it every time my experiments turn out weird. And it makes me smile again.
Indeed, if there is a way for them to escape the tube or the room, they will find it. If your crossing scheme is dodgy or risky, they will fail you. Even if it’s not, they will still try. Sometimes, it just feels like they resent us for keeping them in the lab, and messing with their genes 🙂 I swear that I once felt one bite me (still not kidding).
So, new drosophilists in the making, now you cannot say you didn’t know 🙂
I realized that until now, all my PI Quotes were either funny, either truly positive. Nevertheless, we all know that some PI’s go from being a little offensive here and there to complete jerks. You can judge by yourself where on this ladder this one stands …
Let’s give some context: I’m on a conference, around a table, talking with other PhD’s, Post-Doc’s, and PI’s about our salary. We note that a swiss PhD student earns probably more then a french PI … (true story)
Then, this PI says : “Grad students don’t stay at the lab on week-end if their salary is too high. They rather book a flight for a week-end in Barcelona ! That’s not good.”
That literally knocked my socks off because : 1 – He/She was not drinking, and 2 – It was not meant as a joke … 1% of me knew that there was so truth there, but 99% of me also shouted at him “sorry whhaaattttt ?” , noting that this person really thought that “grad student = dumb research robot that is meant to stay in the lab 24/7” …
At the end, beyond revolting, disrespectful, and contemptuous, it’s just really sad …
New PI quote today, and this one comes from my nowadays PI ! It’s still related to the writing process I talked about in my previous post. As I said, I had never written a real scientific article (when you’re 24 I think it’s still OK to say that); and started with a review a few months ago. It got published over summer.
After I wrote the first draft, I gave it to my supervisor and he sent me back a tracked changed version. Among other things, he wrote :
“Please do remember that writing is very hard work, and a lot of rewriting, deleting, until you are fully fed up with it…. Nevertheless, we are getting there.”
At that point I was so psyched about getting to write a review that I thought it was crazy and impossible to be fully fed up with it.At the end of the submitting/revision/rewriting process, I knew what he meant. So for those of you who are newbies in writing (like me), be aware ! You’ll notice that I also have the nicest and most supportive supervisor ever, since he added the comforting “we are getting there” to reduce the shock when seeing all the track changes he made …
Tomorrow starts my summer vacations (wouhou !) We’re very lucky to have, I quote my PI, way to much vacations, here in the Netherlands. 9 weeks a year.
So I will be out of the lab for 3 weeks now, and it felt really weird leaving it this evening. I put all my drosophila stocks on new food, and said my goodbyes. I don’t know if this is even possible; but I felt sad to leave the lab, as if it had become an addiction ! Also, last night I tried to open the door of my house with the magnetic card of the lab … Yep, it’s time to take a break.
I always remember this drawing from PhD Comics :
Right now, I think I just past the first peak, and start the descending slope …
I will be in a Wi-Fi free zone most of the time (I hope I can deal with this other addiction, btw), which means I will not check e-mails at all. I think it’s great to do that at least once a year.
That also means that I will blog very scarcely starting in a few days, although I prepared some cool posts, and I hope the “automatic programed posting” by WordPress works …