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This category contains 14 posts

Writing science papers: plain English or cultural hegemony?

“Always do what scares you” has been my mantra for most of my adult life, although to be honest I do have some exemption clauses relating to not wanting to break bones, die, or go anywhere near a snake. Intellectually though, it’s a decent rule to live by, as getting stuck in a comfortable rut … Continue reading >>

How to manage your lab (not)

The Personal Development Record, or PDR, is a document guaranteed to induce extreme scepticism in anyone doing bench science. Whilst enumeration of one’s expected achievements over the next year is realistic in some jobs, it is distinctly daft when it comes to doing experiments. I have a vision of Max Perutz filling out a PDR … Continue reading >>

Dr Weston’s twelve steps to conference success

Here, just as the summer conference season begins once again, is my infallible guide to Scientific Conference Etiquette. 1. First, pick a good conference. Try not to be too swayed by where it is, although obviously, all other things being equal, if you have a choice of, say, Acapulco or a hotel at Heathrow Terminal … Continue reading >>

What’s the point of doing a PhD?

We are churning out far too many PhDs in the life sciences: a recent article by Harold Varmus and colleagues entitled “Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws” describes a situation that has been all to obvious for a number of years to those a little lower down the pecking order. There aren’t enough … Continue reading >>

Rebalancing cancer research

It’s a truism that blue skies research, pursuing questions merely because they’re interesting, often leads to major advances in medical knowledge; many of the stories in Blue Skies and Bench Space attest to this, and they’re just a small sample of the accrued scientific wisdom on the subject. There’s an obvious reason for the strong … Continue reading >>

Finding the perfect partner: how to collaborate

During my career as a practising scientist, I was always pretty rubbish at collaborating with other labs. Despite knowing that existing in a scientific vacuum was highly unsatisfactory, a mixture of insecurity, poverty of ideas and a pronounced lack of networking instincts led to my ploughing a mostly lonely furrow until, unsurprisingly, the furrow vanished … Continue reading >>

Lessons from dogs and devils

In 1810, the renowned Professor of Animal Medicine, Mr Delabere Blaine, published the fourth edition of his bestselling manual “A Domestic Treatise on Diseases of Horses and Dogs”. Mr Blaine’s book promises “A Description of Every Disease To which they are generally liable, and the Mode of Cure” and is a riveting read. Amongst the … Continue reading >>

Why it’s OK to be wrong (sometimes)

When I was eight years old, my parents decided that it was time to tell me Where Babies Came From. Cunningly, to avoid the embarrassment of a face-to-face conversation (it may have been the liberated 1960s, but I grew up in a vicarage), they left a sex education pamphlet lying around in the living room; … Continue reading >>

Dr Weston’s Yuletide guide to scientific discovery

What’s it like to make a discovery? Viewed from the outside, the path to scientific glory is as follows: scientists, serious, white-coated individuals in safety glasses, work long hours in the lab meticulously replicating their experiments until a conclusion is reached; at some point this involves holding a tube or petri dish and looking intently … Continue reading >>

Voices of the Fifth Floor

When the world of molecular biology was still a small one, the Fifth Floor of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund labs in Lincolns Inn Fields was the place in Europe to be. Drawn by the twin imperatives of living in London and hanging out with some of the best scientists in the world, a host … Continue reading >>