Candid Engineer in Academia has a great post up today about failure in science (which, btw, if you're not reading Candid Engineer yet, you should be... she's your snarky friend from grad school). Candid Engineer, it seems, has the resilience-in-the-face-of-failure gene. I think pretty much all successful scientists must have this gene.
In science, it's pretty much guaranteed that approximately 99% of the work you do will end in either:
A) Human Error-related Failure... you spend six days working on an experiment and end up sucking your DNA pellet into the vacuum line, or you drop your gel into the sink where it shatters into 18,000 pieces
B) Technical Failure... the experiment was a good idea in theory, but in practice the technique doesn't have high enough resolution, or the mutants you want to test have no phenotype, or your screen isn't stringent enough
C) Systems Failure... because maybe E. coli doesn't like having extra copies of your gene of interest (at least not in that orientation), or the double mutant you want to test is actually dead, or your strain gets suppressors faster than you can test your mutation
And there are some people, like Candid Engineer, like Husband, who take all of this in stride. They have the resilience-in-the-face-of-failure gene, and they know that failure is just another day at the office. I think the reason I have such a hard time with bench work in the long run is that experiment failure always feels like personal failure. And I hate feeling like an idiot all the time.
Maybe it's time for me to look into gene therapy.
Dear Everyone in 2009,
2 days ago