Run the Experiments (1)
(April 3rd, 2017) Here's Lab Times' new serialised crime story. Episode 1: Life of a Scientist.
Six a.m.: the alarm clock shrieked into life – just like every week day and most weekends, too. Since Charlotte accepted the postdoc position in Professor Bernard's lab at Heidelberg University seven years ago, she followed the same routine day in, day out. Up at six, followed by twelve to sixteen hours in the lab, amidst endless cups of coffee, and flopping absolutely exhausted into bed at 10 p.m.. The monotonous life of a hard-working scientist.
Often, the hard work wouldn't even pay off. Charlotte quickly realised that as a life scientist, one must learn to cope with all the frustrations of failed experiments, rejected manuscripts and funding proposals. One way to do it was to cherish, all the more, the few moments of success: when an antibody finally worked on a tissue section; when a colleague asked for her expertise; when a paper was eventually published.
The daily grind and the regular setbacks in the lab weren't actually the worst things about Charlotte's life. These were easy to tune out after a while. It was, however, much harder to ignore her boss. He was the type for whom nobody would willingly choose to work. At times quite choleric, at times totally ignorant and always taking credit for important research findings. Frankly said, he was an outright asshole.
Throughout the last seven years, Charlotte had seen many aspiring young scientists come and go. In the beginning, highly motivated and full of energy and ideas; at the end, broken and frustrated. More than a few left the lab in deep despair, questioning their own abilities and qualification for the researcher job.
But Charlotte kept going. Her strength of mind and natural stubbornness have helped her reach the seemingly unattainable many times before. This way, she managed to shrug off Professor Bernard's often nasty comments, his fits of rage, his arrogance and unpredictable mood swings. She would show him, she promised to herself every night. One day, she would make that great discovery and no one would take it away from her.
A few weeks ago, Charlotte started work on a new oncogene. A handful of experiments showed that when this gene is silenced, a cancer cell would stop proliferating and die. Could this be the basis for a new cancer therapy? Of course, a lot of tests would still have to be done but she knew she was on to something big.
To be continued next Monday...
Kathleen Gransalke & Alison Blewitt
Photo: Pixabay/Andy Beales