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Briefly on Curiosity

It’s pretty obvious that there isn’t enough time in the day.

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Conferences tend to leave you with more questions than answers, and that’s science. With every answer, you have ten more questions. But there just isn’t enough time to investigate everything you want to know. Weird and inexplicable things happen all the time in science. Sometimes curiosity can get the best of you, and drive you on a tangent to delve deeper and deeper into a story with no apparent end. And that’s the best part.

Sadly, science funding is now in a place where curiosity is rarely funded, and translational biomedical science has the upper hand. However, curiosity is what got us here. Exhibit A: Leeuwenhoek wanted to look at little things, and with his crude hand-crafted microscopes, he did just that.

Books and their facts rarely give you an idea of what is still left to discover. Just think that each sentence in your book is the summary of a scientist’s contributions throughout his entire life. Most scientists rarely make breakthrough discoveries, and  barely contribute a sentence to your book. However, their curiosity at least gives them a chance, and each mechanism that is seemingly understood just raises more questions about how or why.

But curiosity must have direction. For example, I wanted to clone a gene in a specific orientation, and without going into detail, the gel above shows 9 plasmids with incorrect orientation, and 1 correct. It is interesting that I have a 10% success given that the gene I want to clone can be inserted in only two directions, giving me a 50/50 chance of the correct orientation. This discrepancy in orientation could be due to a variety of effects, but I simply don’t have time to investigate this phenomenon, especially when all I really want is my clone.

The questions in science are the best part, and we take them for granted. Sure, you study an important protein, that when defective causes Alzheimer’s. But keep in mind the big picture. Your protein is encoded by DNA, regulated transcriptionally and translationally, and has interacting partners within the cell. All these processes, so little time. Focus, and good luck.


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