Laura fell in love with chromosomes during her PhD studying chromosome segregation with Duncan Clarke at the University of Minnesota. She is currently trying to understand how cells make life or death decisions during mitosis under the advisory of Hongtao Yu at UT-Southwestern Medical Center.
Working with faceless beings hidden inside my computer for more than six months was surprisingly easy and productive. Yeah, at the beginning I wondered, what does she or he sound or look like? Then, over time, their Google images became their faces. Which is really weird, I have to admit, since some of them have flowers or random non-human photos as their images. But those are the mental images I learned to associate with my fellow COMPASS members. So when I walked into the COMPASS get-together at the ASCB Annual Meeting, I was excited, yet a little nervous, to finally meet my COMPASS colleagues in person.
When I started reading it, my head felt foggy and my eyes glazed over. My PhD in biology did nothing to help me understand. I realized how my mom felt when I told her about my latest western blot results. Without a particle physics expert to come up with a metaphor, there was no way I was going to understand the original Higgs boson paper1.
One of the things I love most about being a scientist is constantly learning. Normally that means regularly searching for new papers published in my field of research, either by entering the term/gene/topic in PubMed or by scanning the tables of contents of a handful of journals I follow. However, every once in a while an experiment spits out an unexpected result that changes the course of the whole project, linking my research to something I know nothing about.
"For the sake of science, the emphasis [on the impact factor] needs to change."
Randy Schekman & Mark Patterson (1).
Do you know someone who has had a paper out for review for more than six months at one of the 'best' journals? Yeah, I do too. Welcome to the absurdity of the scientific publication process with tales of year-long waiting times between submission and acceptance, of second and even third rounds of reviews, of long lists of experiments to do. Then we race against time to turn those experiments into equally long files of supplementary material. The publication process as we know it should only exist in our worst nightmares.
Instead, it permeates the daily life of every scientist. We all know that in the land of publish-or-perish there are three magic words: Nature, Science and Cell. Publications in these journals are the key to stability in the increasingly unstable world of academic research. To the group leader they bring money, promotions, invitations to speak all around the world, and an endless supply of students and postdocs eager to join their lab. For the young scientist they are critical to getting a job and securing abundant funding to start a lab. But the 'magic words' in themselves don't have any special powers; these largely come from their impact factors.