Classics in biology

When I started writing my first self-introduction blogpost half-way through my postdoc, I never expected to write more than a couple posts. Thanks to every encouraging comment and playful input, ideas kept popping up all the time, and now I want to try something new.

I have always been particularly fond of popular science, largely because of how I was enlightened by one of my biology teachers at school. But isn’t it also fun to talk science with your uninterested friends, and see them fall for clarified concepts that totally dismantle their hilarious stereotyping of the science world? And one consistent observation is that people are always way more interested in the path to major discoveries than the discoveries themselves.

So in this new snippet series, I am going to talk about some classic experiments in biology that steered modern science.


Since stepping into 2021, I can feel that the buzzword among my non-biologist friends has gradually changed from ‘R naught’ to ‘vaccines’. Swallowed by overwhelming coverage on the groundbreaking speed of latest vaccine rollout, many of them are ridiculed by the amount of time normally needed for one drug or vaccine to walk out from the torturous clinical trials, only to be haunted by post-market evaluation for another couple of years until everything looks safe.

“Is that why you spent ages to complete your PhD?”
And our conversation escalated quickly.

Just kidding.
Well, yes things can take time in the lab, and in fact not just for producing vital agents like life-saving vaccines, but also for many of the experiments we carry out on a daily basis. On this day, even a sequence alignment for merely one deep-sequencing genomic sample can consume days of paralysing processing on your computer.

Top-tier journals are expecting more and more data from researchers who are desperate to publish that one paper, which in many cases tells one simple yet compelling story illustrated by one unexpected mechanism. It is not rare to find a Figure 8N in a high-impact publication that is supported by Supplementary Figure 11F and Supplementary Table 9. Imagine the amount of work needed just to make one point. This is how rigorous and demanding modern science has become.

But good science does not necessarily equate to lengthy experiments and documentation. At least that was what I believed and what ‘instigated’ my fearless (or naïve) embarkment on a scientific adventure, all because of one classic experiment I learnt at school.

Curious?
I will tell you about it in the first snippet of the series coming soon – a story about how scientists deciphered the mystery of DNA replication and described their experimental results in exactly 100 words.

(feature photo from pixabay.com)

2 thoughts on “Classics in biology

  1. […] As I said, I would have thought twice at the PhD doorstep, if not because of the irresistible charm of this darn experiment.Being a household name among all molecular biologists, the experiment was so elegantly designed and performed back in the 1950s, that the authors used exactly and only 100 words to describe their findings in the Results section. […]

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