Monday, October 26, 2009


I have started my second rotation in a lab that works on a field that is almost totally alien to me... NEUROSCIENCE!!! I have been more of a protein biochemist who likes to express proteins in E.coli cells and then purify and characterize them. I have some knowledge on protein structure-function relations, protein folding, enzyme kinetics etc etc, but believe me, I stayed away from neuroscience.

So what inspired me to suddenly try this out? Suddenly out of the blue? Well, it was on somebody's recommendation that I went and met this professor. I figured, whats the harm in meeting. Its not like I am going to commit to anything, not even a rotation. So I took up an appointment and went to see her. And she turned out to be one of the best people I have ever met! Her love and enthusiasm for her work was so infectious, I just had to be a part of it! So I committed myself to joining her lab for a rotation... in spite of being neuro-illiterate, in spite of not having worked with animals, in spite of all the odds against me, I took a bold step forward (if I may say so myself)

And I find that I don't regret it! Its an awesome lab! And today I got to do something entirely new. I worked with mouse brain sections, put them in order and mounted them on slides, then I went with the grad student who will be mentoring me to handle rats! I held a real, live, white lab rat in my hand!!!! It was kinda ok, sorta like holding a tiny kitten (something that I am very much used to). And I have decided that I love the lab, love the prof, love the people and love the science.

But at the end of the day, we all know that nothing is perfect. There has to be a catch somewhere or the other.

Somehow I am wondering if the ethics behind using animal models will come in my way, should I eventually decide to join this lab long term... Will I be able to sleep with a peace of mind? Maybe I will get used to it, it didn't seem so bad today.

But the question still lingers on in my mind.... I guess only time will tell.

I will have to wait and see. Hope and pray


doublehead said...

There is a saying in Tamil, "Kondral paavam thindral pochu" (translates to "It is not a sin to kill if you eat it!!", you get the essence of this statment, don't you). May be this statement can be modified for the sake of scientists who use animal models. "Kondral paavam puthiya arivu padaithal pochu" (translates to "It is not a sin if you gain new knowledge out of it") I know "PETA" people would like to object to it. But can they think of a realistic alternative to live animal models. Let them all first turn into vegetarians, then talk/protest!!

Scienitsts are generally very conscious of what they are doing with animals. They do not kill them indiscreminately. So be conscious of what you are doing, learn and generate new knowledge, then you are justified of the killings. Shed the guilty feeling, you are not killing for the sake of it, you are learning something which is otherwise difficult to learn.

doublehead said...

BTB, have you visited the websites


check them out!!

Clueless said...

I'm so happy the new lab is treating you well. Being in the presence of inpiring and motivating people can do wonders! Fingers crossed that everything remains as rosy and happy as it is right now!

Re: the usage of animals as models, I agree with doublehead. It's not that scientists are indiscriminately killing animals just for the sake of it. If valuable information can be gleaned out of something, and people are aware of what they're doing, I don't see the harm in it.