Friday 28 September 1928. Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming would walk into his Imperial College laboratory on the morning of this day to find a petri dish containing staphylococcus bacteria to be contaminated by mold. The mold seemed to inhibit the growth of bacteria, leading Fleming to conclude that it had produced a substance harbouring anti-bacterial properties. The events that would conspire in the following years would arguably be the biggest success story the world has ever witnessed.
As I approached the completion of my undergraduate degree, I was definitely unsure of how research worked and the expectations that were required of me going forward. This resulted in a bit of confusion as I learned the ropes and how to handle my newfound freedom as I set out to do some proper research.
Looking back, I think what would have benefited me greatly was some simple guidance as I transitioned from routine, scheduled lectures to the erratic and unpredictable world of research. Guidance such as this feature article co-written with a fantastic collaborator.
“Such an exotic name!” you exclaim, “Surely it must be some elusive endangered African species that can only be found in two specific wetlands in the Congo Basin?”
Well, the zebrafish is indeed exotic, but in a different context – the importance of which is far greater than one might bestow upon this little creature.
Ethanol (alcohol) is a poison that is widely consumed all around the world. However drinking methanol the same way leads to poisoning of a different, irreversible kind. We look at the chemistry and biochemistry involved in two very similar molecules, and how they affect the body through different ways.
Ponder that. Your body is merely a vessel – a temporary host to immortal beings within: your genes. Their mission: to pass themselves on to their next host – hopefully stronger, fitter and better able to produce a more advanced spaceship for their next journey…
If you have surfed the interwebz in the last five years, chances are high that you would have stumbled upon one of Amy Cuddy’s articles or talks about ‘power posing’. Admittedly the argument that she weaves is actually convincing, and the simple fix she suggests to help with stressful situations most compelling. But what part of this claim is actually evidence based research, and what part is abusing authority to stretch scientific truth?
Like many others out there, I require at least one cup of coffee a day to function – in fact I am drinking a cappuccino as I type this. Interestingly, there is more chemistry involved in the brewing and consumption of coffee than just getting your caffeine fix. We also explore death by coffee, because that’s what the masses want. Right?