Last Thursday

I have been on the road, without time to blog. Last Thursday’s class amazed me.

(1) I did a pop quiz. Over the three years we have been going, 350 students have done that test.  Last Thursday, one of them found a mistake… She was SO right.  I had to crack up in class. What else to do?

brain in jar.jpg

(2) I got asked the question: why do scientists work on what they do?  This is a really deep question, which I do not think has a good answer. In my case, I choose something which might have serious impact, where the competition is not too hot, and where fundamental problems in evolutionary biology clash with real world concerns. But the natural next question is: why do I care about those things?  It is all a mystery to me. I ended by saying, we scientists do what feels good. I can’t help think that is pretty unique among the professions.
(3) I got asked, in response to the class before: how is it possible to do research on 100 rats? I beamed up the Jax labs.  Many of the students were clearly alarmed there are animal supermarkets. One even gasped: but they are selling mutants!. It had not occurred to me that the students would not know this. Must teach it next year.
(4) The ongoing saga of my currently favorite ever paper was that the thing got rejected from PLoS Medicine without review.  This led to a lively discussion about the hierarchy of journals, and why our paper can not go forward, whereas others can. Many students realized that this is particularly important issue after the especially crap paper we discussed in class that day.
(5) What I actually discussed in class is why smart, well meaning physicians kill people by not utilizing the scientific method. I think this is a powerful way of teaching what science is about. Your authoritarian physician, who you trust with your life, is running on instinct, anecdote and what their professor told them. Just like you are. Hopefully, the next generation can do critical thought.

1 thought on “Last Thursday

  1. MATTHEW S HOFFMAN

    In regards to #2, I think what Jack Szostak said last year was quite poignant. That is, he would accomplish a certain task and then move on to something else that was rather new.

    Reply

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