Tuesday, 23 August 2011

08:38 – Urk. I’m down to two of the chemistry kits in stock, which means I need to build another batch today. Fortunately, that doesn’t take long, as long as I have all the components at hand, maybe an hour or so to assemble a dozen kits.


I ran into Melissa while I was walking Colin yesterday. She’s the 20-something young woman who borrowed my Kindle for a few days. She’s a biologist, so our discussions are always interesting. (She reads science papers for recreation; I like that in a girl.) She said her husband was encouraging her to go back to school to get her Ph.D., but she’s not sure she wants to do that. It’d probably take five years to get her Ph.D., followed by a postdoc or two. Even then, job prospects are very uncertain. She’s not interested in joining academia, and there are a lot of Ph.D. biologists waiting tables, driving taxis, or serving coffee at Starbucks.

Time would also be an issue. She has what seems like 17 or 18 preschool children running around, but may actually be only two or three. And, in yet another demonstration of my obliviousness, I didn’t realize until she told me that she’s eight months pregnant. I just thought she’d gained a bit of weight.

What she’s really interested in is not the degree per se. She wants to do the science. I suggested she do it herself. Most or all of the technologies she’d need are already accessible for home scientists. Gel and column electrophoresis, PCR, -80C freezers, ultracentrifuges, and so on are now affordable for home labs. She was stunned when I told her I’d put together an ultracentrifuge capable of 60,000+ G for less than $150. (That’s sufficient to destroy a polypropylene Eppie tube.) She can easily get the same access to the literature that she’d have in a formal Ph.D. program. After a few years of study, for all intents and purposes she’d have her Ph.D. in molecular biology and epidemiology in all but name. And since she doesn’t care about the letters after her name, why go through what she’d need to to get those letters?