I am immensely proud of being an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley, where I was able to get a world class education and have opportunities to meet with and learn from superb professors, some of whom have since earned Nobel Prizes. Those were some of the most fun years of my life and I also appreciated the beautiful, sprawling campus with lots of fantastic architecture and wide-open green spaces to lounge around on and play catch with my friend every now and then. It is mere coincidence that the day this article published is also Marian Koshland's birthday, and it got me thinking about Koshland Hall, one of the newer (now old, because so am I) buildings when I started college, and which Koshland it was actually named after.
I recall a time many moons ago when I first started my graduate journey at Duke. I was doing one of my final rotations before joining a thesis lab, and I was sitting in a lab meeting where the group was discussing a particular surface marker on immune cells. Apparently this marker (long since forgot which one) could be cleaved and the "shedding" effect led to normal immune function. So silly young me who didn't know asked, "So what happens if you can't cleave it?" At that point one of the research professors said, "Well that's a stupid question" but in a way that was more bemused than malicious, as it turns out that was the thesis project for the postdoc in the lab who was training me. Other than the part where I probably should have known that was her entire project for like six years, I had stumbled upon my first "stupid" question that actually led to tangible answers that contributed to our understanding of science. Not that I actually did the work here, mind you, but someone else also asked that question and decided to answer it for themselves. I've long since forgotten the mechanism or the phenotype of the mouse that couldn't shed that marker, but the core memory stuck with me and shaped the way I approached students and education, because while questions might seem dumb, they at least always make you think.
I always look forward to this time of year, even more so sometimes than the actual Nobel Prizes, because I want to see what new insights can be derived from the weird science that, as they say, first makes you laugh, then think. That's right, now we are at the 33rd First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes! Just like last year and the few years before, the Ig Nobel ceremony was conducted virtually while the pandemic is still not quelled to an extent that allowed the organizers (men and women of science, see?) to be comfortable enough to have hundreds of people packed into a raucous arena, so the paper airplane tosses and everything else was pre-taped and released online. This did not take away from the absurdity and the few laugh-out-loud moments that I (and probably hundreds of thousands of science enthusiasts tuning in from around the globe) had during the 90-minute event. I do wonder if some of these might supplant my personal top ten, but maybe not just yet. Now let's see what happened!
Ever since my wife started listening to some true crime and fantasy podcasts a few years ago, I ventured on a different path with my podcast journey as I steered toward celebrity interviews, comedy, and the occasional science podcast. Of course you know we did start our own ABclonal podcast, BioChat, and previously we also highlighted a few fun and interesting science-themed podcasts that won't take too much out of your day as you commute or go about your work. In addition to entertaining and educating you, podcasts also have some mental and personal benefits. There are only so many hours in your day with plenty of choices, so let's see what we can do to help with some constructive distraction!
Like many of you out there, I used to pass the incubation periods for my experiments by scouring YouTube for videos, both of the educational and entertaining variety. While the bulk of this was admittedly cat and animal videos and human misfortunes (that normally did not result in debilitating injuries or death, mind you), I did prefer the channels that were a combination of educational and entertaining, which is a philosophy I adopted as a teacher and mentor. So today, I'd like to share some of my favorite channels that might help you de-stress from a hard day at work, and also probably teach you something! You can click the headers to go to their main channel as well as check out the example videos.