Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Disruptive Tech and the Post Doc grind

In my previous post, I mentioned that I thought disruptive technologies would tend to come from academic groups.

Then I got to thinking about it. Two examples come to mind.

RNAi - which started academic ( and they just got Nobel prizes for it)
PCR - Came from the commercial side. Kary Mullis worked for industry.
miRNA's - academia, and I don't know how disruptive they will be yet. Much smoke any fire?
Tumor supressors - academia, but from a long time ago when there was no industry.

PCR came from the time of not much industry as well, so it is an even bigger anomoly.

The tools companies have a bunch of stuff that no one thinks of as creative, but on the other hand they didn't come up with it either. Promega has all the TnT stuff. Stratagene has QuickChange. Invitrogen has TA cloning. All of these required a massive amount of basic biology research to be done. It is hidden by deceptivly simple ideas and kits, but at the end of the day is very creative stuff.

I don't claim to have any knowledge of "who is more creative", nor do I actually think that is a question with an answer. No idea how to measure that. No real idea of why you would try. My point is that there are really bright people doing really cool stuff in all corners of research. There are really dumb people in both academia and in industry. There are great projects in both as well.

When folks feel they are trapped, as FemaleScientist does right now, then they get depressed. When, in that depression, they throw out huge numbers of options with little to no knowledge about those options, I get annoyed. I probably shouldn't as I don't know her or what she works on, but all the same.....

One of my other friends (hi Bill!) who figured out who I am after reading her site said, and I paraphase, "She is just like all the other old timer post docs around here. Bitter at being stuck but not able to take a break and figure out what she wants to do". By not able to take a break he meant "she couldn't see a way NOT to go to lab and stop and look at the world around her". I have put a few words in his mouth, but not too many. The second half, stopping and getting away and reassessing, is the critical part. When you are in it and doing what she is doing right now there is no way for you to come up with a plan of how to move forward. Everything is lab lab lab lab lab lab lab. It is not "what do I want to do in a few years and what choices exist?" I would also add that I think you are doing crap science right then. You don't have the ability to actually think about what you are doing. There is no analysis and you make stupid errors. Just my experience from watching...

Graduate school has to be done in academia. Everything after that is your own path. Choose from knowledge of choices not from what you can wedge in between two gels. Regardless of what you think, you do have the ability to take a couple of days off and clear your mind enough to make a plan.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Yeah, that's a pretty good interpretation of what I was saying. To be fair to some grumbling postdocs, though, it isn't necessarily simply a matter of knowing one's options, as there are lots of experienced postdocs who would love to work in industry (at least from what I hear). But they are trapped because they can't get a job there either. So I can understand their anguish.