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May 23

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What is it like to be a scientist working on a major breakthrough?

The PLOS blog PLOS Biologue recently published my review about Natalie Angier’s book Natural obsessions. It tells the story of Bob Weinberg‘s lab in the 70s and 80s – the time when he made one of the most important discoveries in cancer research and proved the existence of the human oncogene Ras which can cause normal cells to form tumours.

800px-Oncogene_(1)

A labeled DNA segment (a known oncogene) in a mouse oocyte. By unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But above all, it gives extraordinary insights into what it is like to work as a scientist in a world-class lab and how research is carried out today. Although it’s been published in 1988, it still retains its actuality. Technology might have changed profoundly in the past 20 years but the way people carry out research, collaborate or compete in high-pressure environments has not, or at least not to that extent. A careful reader might find an answer to the question why many of the current issues in science arise: scientific misconduct, the bitter reality of getting “scooped” (when someone else publishes your results before you) and the reason why so many talented and hard-working scientists fail in their careers, resulting in the loss of promising potential for our western society.

Don’t have time to read the book right now? My review can be found here.

Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/?p=33

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