Former postdoc fellow Svend Kjaer has today published his first first-author paper after leaving the lab. It has appeared online at the Nature Structure and Molecular Biology website. He’s got the first glimpse of the three-dimensional structure of the extracellular domain of the RET receptor, giving insights into how it binds ligand and how its mutation causes disease. Something we were striving to see for several years while he was at our lab has now been achieved and it’s one of the great success stories of making science. It took a lot of perseverance, a good measure of ingenuity and the crucial guidance and support of Svend’s current mentor and common friend Neil McDonald from the CRUK institute in London. As if by coincidence, from Svend comes also this link to the one-hour film “Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist” telling the story of three graduate students in a crystallography lab at Columbia University, NYC and their road to success (or failure) through “years of trial and error and unflinching dedication”. It gives good insights into real science making in a lab, the elusive thrill of its ups and downs, and what it takes to get to the finish line. Link from the picture above.
Limoncello in hand, professor Alun Davies addresses the Molpark crew at the onset of the network meeting in Seiano, Italy, on April 25, 2010. We had a wonderful couple of days with great science and long-missed sunshine in a fantastic location. Video shot with Canon EOS 7D and EF 24mm 1.4 L lens.
Making science is about being where none else has been. Seeing what none else has seen. Walking on an unknown planet for the first time, without leaving the walls of the lab.
This is the essence of being a scientist. Of course, day to day life in a research lab can be difficult. We don’t walk on a new planet everyday. Reagents that don’t work, mice that don’t breed, experiments that don’t make sense… Many things can get on our way to the answers we are looking for. Sometimes we get answers to questions we have not asked. It’s a journey into uncharted territory. And like any journey, it is prone to surprises. Discovery is the driving force. But not every question asked leads to a discovery. How to know what questions to ask? That’s another matter altogether…
A remarkable concert featuring Vijay Iyer Trio live at Fasching on April 13 2010 in full power. Here is Vijay in full concentration at the piano (pic taken with my EOS 7d and the 100-400 L, which I took by mistake thinking that it was the 70-200L 2.8!). In addition to Iyer on piano, the trio includes Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Their most recent album is “Historicity” (2009) on the ACT label. Several of the pieces of that album were featured at the Fasching concert. Vijay Iyer uses thick chords sweeping across the keyboard generating an orchestral backdrop onto which melodic lines navigate. Improvisation remains the central theme. From Vijay Iyer’s website: “his powerful, cutting-edge music is firmly grounded in groove and pulse, but also rhythmically intricate and highly interactive; fluidly improvisational, yet uncannily orchestrated; emotionally compelling, as well as innovative in texture, style, and musical form.”
After subscribing for over two years to the Nature, Science and Cell podcasts, my preference falls clearly with the former. The Nature podcast is snappy, lively, fun to listen to and has great interviews. The journalists have human voices, sound like real people and manage to confer the excitement of science with a touch of humor.
The Science podcast has several problems, the biggest one is podcaster Robert Frederick. I can not imagine a more unnatural, robotic voice on Earth. Does he speak like that to his friends? Even the text-to-speech voice in my Mac sounds more human that this guy. I also find the usual bit about science policy terribly uninteresting. As in the World Series, this is only concerned with US policy, of course. If listening at night in bed, I am surely asleep by this moment. Both Nature and Science have another feature in common that I think takes unnecessary space, that is the bit on news at the end in which one journalist interviews another. This practice has become very popular in TV talk shows and news programs, and sometimes I can see the point of asking questions to a journalist deeply specialized on a particular topic. But those are not the guys at Nature or Science. I find it totally uninteresting, I much rather have the actual scientists telling the story.
Here is the 2010 Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine photographed by the Canon EOS 5D MarkII. It is the same photographer that comes every year for the committee picture, and he always works hard to get some smiles. The last couple of years he has used the EOS 5D MarkII with the 24-70L “brick” lens and a couple of external strobes. I was shocked to learn that he shoots jpg, not raw, and does minimal or no post-processing. As in the classiscal school, he wants to get the picture right already in the camera.