Thursday, January 29, 2009

A 90% Day

At work, I have the flexibility to follow interesting lab results, and it's a part of the job I really like. I'm always looking at taxonomically-informative markers that can be used to quickly identify closely-related disease-carrying mosquito taxa.

A lot of "doing" science for me is getting materials, making solutions, setting up the PCRs, and in general doing the preliminary work to start answering the question you have. My coworker G has a name for this process, calling it "90%" of science.

The process also involves the dead-ends and mistakes one makes along the way (i.e. "did I remember to put that bit of stuff in the reaction?"). No doubt those can be informative as well, but often they just cause one to smack one's forehead and go the freezer to thaw the reagents again.

I've been putting in a lot of 90% days lately, and while I understand it's part of the process, it's a little frustrating as well. Another part of my job is to process samples with markers we already have that work well, so I've been doing that sort of bread-and-butter work as well and it's sort of comforting.

But it doesn't compare, thrill-wise, to figuring out something new that is of value to people wanting to ID specimens, and publishable as well.

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Hi, sorry to make the humans do an extra step.