Sunday, 23 March 2008

On my honour, I will try (3/4)

This is the third post in a four-part series, begun over on the Beagle Project Blog in Part 1 (which includes an introduction to The Science Scouts) and Part 2.

ere is the third batch of my Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique badges:

The "I've done science with no conceivable practical application" badge. Well, maybe I lack imagination but I simply cannot conceive of a practical application that might come from an understanding of the evolutionary mechanism of interspecific variation in fruit fly eggshell morphology. The whole point was to understand evolution just a little bit better, and to me that is enough to make it worthwhile. That said, science for curiosity's sake also sometimes leads to practical applications that are only as yet inconceivable but may very well become earth shatteringly important at some later stage. For example, there's the story of that guy who was fascinated by the mold spores that landed on his petri dish (inconceivable!) but then it turned out to be the source of Penicillin. 'Nough said.

The "science has forced me to seek medical attention" badge. More people can claim this badge than probably realise it, especially if we count mental health, which I think we should. I get the badge for a number of reasons: 1) repetitive strain injury, numbness in my right hand and a strained muscle in my neck, all from writing my thesis, 2) astigmatism partly due to looking through a microscope for too many hours per day in grad school and 3) Temperomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) from PhD related stress.

The "somewhat confused as to what scientific field I actually belong to" badge. This badge was made for me. During my PhD I moved from developmental genetics to evo-devo. Now it's even more pronounced; you see, sometimes a geneticist can feel rather alone in a natural history museum. For example, whenever I meet a new member of staff or visitor, the question always comes up, "so, what group of plants do you work on?" Me: "Uh, um, well, see, I work on genetics/genomics as they apply to just about any group of plants." Them: "oh" *walks away*. It turns out that when one's "specialty" is (or was) Drosophila melanogaster, that doesn't seem to count. Sometimes this transdisciplinary thing isn't all it's cracked up to be. Oh well, it seems to be working out okay.

The "works with acids" badge. Two words: deoxyribonucleic acid. Then there are all the other acids which come with working in any wet lab. I won't bore you with the details. They really are boring. Really.

One batch of badges to go! Sneak preview in the sidebar.

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