what it takes to become a full professor

Julia Frugoli JFRUGOLI at BIO.TAMU.EDU
Mon Oct 27 12:33:04 EST 1997


Apologies to those of you who may have seen this before, but when this 
humourous piece came to my in-box, I thought women-in-bio might enjoy 
it, as it touches humorously on several topics we've covered recently.  
I don't know its original source.

DIRECT EVOLUTION OF A FULL PROFESSOR

Abstract:

Success in academia is hypothesized to require specific phenotypes. In
order to understand how such unusual traits arise, we used human clones 
to
identify the molecular events that occur during the transition from a
graduate student to professor. A pool of graduate student clones was
subjected to several rounds of random mutagenesis followed by selection 
on
minimal money media in the absence of dental insurance. Students 
surviving
this selection were further screened for the ability to work long hours
with vending machine snacks as a sole carbon source; clones satisfying
these requirements were dubbed "post-docs". In order to identify 
assistant
professors from amongst the post-docs, this pool was further 
mutagenized,
and screened for the ability to turn esoteric results into a 50 minute
seminar. Finally, these assistant professors were evaluated for their
potential to become full professors in two ways: first, they were 
screened
for overproduction and surface display of stress proteins such as Hsp70.
Assistant professors that displayed such proteins (so-called 
"stressed-out"
mutants) were then fused to the M13 coat protein, displayed on phages 
and
passed over a friend and family members column, to identify those that 
were
incapable of functional interactions. These were called full professors.
Although these mutants arose independently, they shared striking
phenotypes.  These included the propensity to talk incessantly about 
their
own research, the inability to accurately judge the time required to
complete bench work, and the belief that all their ideas constituted 
good
thesis projects. The linkage of all these traits suggests that these
phenotypes are coordinately regulated.  Preliminary experiments have
identified a putative global regulator.  Studies are currently being
conducted to determine if overexpression of this gene product in 
post-docs
and grad students can speed up the grad student-full professor 
evolutionary
process.

EDITORS COMMENTARY:

The present paper, titled "Direct Evolution of a Full Professor" is a
fascinating document, well worth publication. However, the authors fail 
to
note several topics sure to be of interest to the Journal's readers. For
example, it is a well-documented phenomenon that transition to industry 
can
occur at any point along the evolutionary pathway. The authors fail to
comment on the possible mechanisms behind such versatility. 
Plasmid-borne
resistance genes encoding a tropism for rich media have been postulated 
to
fulfill this function. In support of this hypothesis, it may be noted 
that
previous researchers who attempted to isolate this plasmid quickly
underwent transition and never published
their findings.

*****************************************************
Julia Frugoli
Dartmouth College

visiting grad student at
Texas A&M University
Department of Biological Sciences
College Station, TX 77843
409-845-0663
FAX 409-847-8805

"Evil is best defined as militant ignorance."        
																										Dr. M. Scott Peck*****************************************************



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