A story of graduate school serendipity
February 10, 2015 4:19 PM   Subscribe

In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind "Friedmann’s journey from connexins to spinal opsins shows that, even in this day and age, it can be tough to predict what a scientist is going to find when digging into some well-defined problem, like synchronized activity in the spinal cord. Scientists are used to experiments turning up empty, but every now and then, they unexpectedly strike gold (and live for those moments)."
posted by dhruva (9 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
My favorite part of this is "And that's when I realized. I'm going to graduate."
posted by ootandaboot at 5:09 PM on February 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Awesome in the literal sense of the world. A well written piece too!
posted by lalochezia at 5:21 PM on February 10, 2015


"Chance favors the prepared mind."

It also favors the mind that keeps the finding to its naive self so that it can spend the time collecting the data to confront its boss with enough evidence to not be blown off for months.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:46 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Love it!! Thanks for this, made my day.
posted by nemutdero at 7:31 PM on February 10, 2015


It's fun to note that the paper claims that the behavioral experiment (coiling inhibited by light) motivated the genetic screen - completely opposite to what the article says. I'm sure the article describes the real sequence of events more accurately. This sort of rejiggering of the order of events is understandably pretty common, as it allows the paper to lead with the cool big-picture result in Figure 1 and then flow smoothly into mechanistic explanations. So much of the drama gets lost in the process, though!
posted by nemutdero at 8:00 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


This sort of rejiggering of the order of events is understandably pretty common, as it allows the paper to lead with the cool big-picture result in Figure 1 and then flow smoothly into mechanistic explanations

That, and I've yet to read a methods section that says "crystal conditions were whatever corresponds to forgetting the sample in the rearmost Eppendorf tube rack in the fridge, then finding it full of crystals two weeks later when my benchmate told me to clean all my old junk out because it was taking up too much space."
posted by schroedinger at 9:48 PM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


> "My favorite part of this is 'And that's when I realized. I'm going to graduate.'"

For some reason, I am always oddly charmed to hear about grad school projects which unexpectedly turn out to be hugely important work. One of my personal favorites is the very first exoplanet discovery.

I sort of like to imagine these people walking into their thesis defense, dropping their paper on a desk, and saying, "BOOM! Any questions?"
posted by kyrademon at 3:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


... the very first exoplanet discovery.

No, no, no, no, no. Not to take anything away from that very fine work, but it needs some seriously specific qualifiers to be a "first". Like, maybe, first confirmed discovery of an exoplanet around a main sequence star, yeah.

This has been your edition of unnecessary and ridiculous pedantry for the day.


Slightly more on topic, Paul Dirac's thesis title was simply Quantum Mechanics. That's it.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:27 AM on February 11, 2015


Very sorry. Should have been much more precise in what I said, you are entirely correct.
posted by kyrademon at 10:35 AM on February 11, 2015


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