Are you new? Read here what occasionally happened to me and what that has to do with this blog.
Someone interested in my work would ask me:
Someone: So, what are you working on?
Me: Fungi – moulds, like the kind you would find on your bread.
Someone Aah, that’s important! Is it true that you should throw out the whole bread?
Someone: Oh! And what are you trying to find out?
Me: I’m trying to find new natural products*. You know that a lot of fungi produce chemicals, like penicillin for example, right?
Someone: Yeah, sure, I know penicillin. Major breakthrough! And how are you trying to find new chemicals?
Yup, that’s usually where it gets difficult and people start dozing off. Why is it, that it seems so hard to explain what we actually do in the lab?
If this was a fellow scientist asking I’d say: We’re doing transcriptomics in Aspergillus under stress conditions to see which of the predicted gene clusters for secondary metabolism are expressed. Based on that, we’re optimizing growth conditions and analysing cell extracts by HPLC and LC-MS to find new compounds*. Right.
If this was my mom asking, I’d say: It’s very complicated.
But is it really? Or do I just not bother to explain? Maybe it just seems complicated to explain all the basics to someone who doesn’t know what a PCR is not to mention “transcriptomics”. Now, I could probably start going back to high school biology and how DNA gets transcribed into proteins. Or, I could make it a little more interesting (because I don’t think this knowledge is actually required; although it doesn’t hurt either).
* This is simply an example of a general interest in our lab and does not represent a particular project of myself or anyone else. Since my actual work is still unpublished I can’t (yet) brag about it.