Calculating Protein Concentration

Tom Anderson via (by ucgatan from
Tue Jan 22 13:19:50 EST 2008

On Mon, 21 Jan 2008, Pow Joshi wrote:

> On 21/01/2008, DK <dk from> wrote:
> > That you apparently had bad teachers who allowed you to successfully
> > go through things that require this knowledge without acquiring it is
> > most certainly not your problem and I don't think any single reply
> > said that. It's a tragedy of many modern societies. And I am afraid we
> > will be paying dearly for it down the road. Dumbing down higher
> > education is one of the shortest ways to a societal suicide.
> ...and this is a general comment:  I one also sees very clearly, that
> science is , as again someone has already suggested, fast becoming a
> game of numbers and rote "doing" rather than anything to do with any
> kind of thought process or intellect that gives rise to hypothesis and
> predictions....  it is as well that one invented robots to do ones
> bidding (which may, very well, replace the numerous postdocs and
> technicians that the universities and industries employ) ... it is the
> age of "brute force" I suppose....

I hear this a lot. The funny thing is, it doesn't correspond in the
slightest to the way i, a graduate student, do science, or the way i see
anyone else around me, student or postdoc, doing science. Yes, we use
kits, and i doubt many people could tell you exactly what buffer QC does,
but i can assure you we're fully engaged on the problems we work on. Not
having to think about how DNA binds to a column doesn't mean we do less
thinking, just that we have to spend more time thinking about the other
problems we face.

So, what's going on here? Is it the case that science is descending into
rote doing or not? Is this just a standard complaint of grumpy old
scientists? Have i been lucky to work in more switched-on environments? Is
this something that's common in, say, biochemistry, or structural biology,
or molecular biology labs, but less so in cell biology, where i work?
Could it perhaps be a difference in culture between the US (where i think
a lot of you are, although i'm not sure) and the UK (where i am)?

It would be grimly ironic if it was the latter. Group leaders here are
constantly urging us larvae to postdoc in the US, to learn the 'American
style of doing science', implying it's some master secret that will unlock
successful careers. Perhaps it's the exact opposite.

I should say, though, that i don't think that's the case; British people i
know who've worked in US labs generally report that there is no
significant difference in culture (modulo the average size of labs, which
is much bigger in the US). I suspect it's a weird cargo cult that's taken
hold amongst British group leaders: all of them went to the US to postdoc,
and now they're successful, so of course if we do it, we will be too,
right?  This displays a woeful lack of logic and understanding of cause
and effect, but hey, this is group leaders we're talking about, no news


Tom Anderson, MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, UCL, London WC1E 6BT
(t) +44 (20) 76797264   (f) +44 (20) 76797805   (e) thomas.anderson from

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