Saturday, May 05, 2007

If only it was so easy

I was chatting with my dad, who is among the world's most optimistic people. Somewhere along the conversation, he says (mostly in humorous encouragement) "so, somehow you've managed to get your Ph.D., now the next thing you should get is a nobel prize."

(That sounded much better and a whole lot funnier in the original Tamil).

If only life were that simple.

*************

Speaking of simple, it's amazing how PI's (for those of you who are not in science, that means the professors for whom graduate students or us lowly postdocs work for) effortlessly come up with these incredibly complex and elaborate experiments. Most of them have been away from the bench for so long that they no longer realize how much time and effort some experiments take. In their own time-warp, experiments are childishly simple.

So, it is simplicity in itself for them to suggest, say, the purification of a non-recombinant protein from cells, using a "simple" chromatographic separation (involving different types of columns), following the protein with western blots alone, collecting hundreds of fractions, and finally topping it all of with a few hundred activity assays, all of which can be done quite easily (in their minds) in about three days, give or take a few hours. (Something like that would take well over a week to do, and to get it all right could take up to a month).

If only life were that simple.

6 comments:

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

very well put, the bit about P.Is. And if any attempt is made to remind them about how it was when they actually did bench work, they go off on the "in those days we had no kits and had to do everything the hard way".
{sigh}

you just put in words my favorite pet peeve.

Sunil said...

yeah....kits, the trump card of the PIs. Of course, they forget that what makes figure one of a paper now was a whole paper in the old days :-)

Anyway, almost all scientists irrespective of era think what they themselves did once were the hardest experiments on earth, dont they :-)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Anyway, almost all scientists irrespective of era think what they themselves did once were the hardest experiments on earth, dont they :-)

:) heh true that. On the other hand, it's so much more fun to listen to people who simplify what they did when they describe it, there is a lot more elegance to that than trying to say they moved heaven and earth to make that prep.

Sunil said...

Absolutely.....I think all really good scientists can simplify what they did, and explain even difficult concepts with simplicity and clarity. And usually, the simpler you keep your explanations, the better the message gets across :-)

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