Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lab life, part one.

One goal of this blog-experiment is to keep friends, family and anonymous web folks entertained and up to speed on the goings on out here in Vancouver. I would also like to provide a feel for how the lab works and, better yet, how science sometimes gets done. So with that in mind, I'll try to give a little background through a series of installments on the workings of our little lab at the University of British Columbia. A common misconception of how we go about our daily business is tainted by images of Dr. Who, late-nite transformations from Jekyll to Hyde (and hopefully back) or better yet, thoughtful, pointy-headed academics in lab coats discussing esoteric nonsense. In actuality, the real life of a scientist is somewhat less interesting than those options. (I should mention that late nights in the lab are all but unavoidable when working with cells, DNA or other such molecules that don't have the '9-to-5-then-happy hour' schedule.) In short, running and working in a research lab is something akin to any other start-up tech company looking for venture capital. In our case we compete with other labs for the two things that keep us running: data and grant money. Without either one, we cease to be. So while some days we take off early, we generally never stop working. If we aren't at work, then there is a good chance we are thinking about some aspect of the experiment of the week that doesn't seem to work out. Most other scientists I know work the same way. Why is that? One obvious motivating factor can be found by looking a the 'modern' approach to science which relies on fierce competition between labs, such that only the hardest working stay funded. But to look at it that way would be missing a more central point. And that is, what drives most scientists is the very real sense that our trade, like most creative endeavors, is a labor of love.


  1. Oh and don't forget to mention the curative effects of coffee on the troubled scientist-mind. Coffee and bicycle-riding, what-ho!

  2. Amen to that...

    Great idea to have a blog on your website, Chris! Maybe you can get some extra funding by placing adds on your blog:)...