Response to a couple of new comments
After a long sojourn from blogging due to too much actual science going on (!), I'm feeling lazy about work this afternoon and wanted to respond to a couple of questions:
"At 9:12 PM, Anonymous said...
I read this frequently and find it quite entertaining. I can only infer that you are a biologist. My question for you and people who respond is, Are you a scientist or a technologist? What I mean is do you study science or do you use science to produce technology. So many people in my department are what I would call technologists. They do something which I call "applied science." And they spend their time chasing grant money and writing grant proposals promising that they can develop so and so to treat this or that. And they get the money. Technology is great, and the people who do it have tremendous talents. BUT the reason for the workaholic culture and so many other negatives in our field comes from this invasion of technology into our basic science departments. Or maybe I am just jealous.
Dr. Why not How"
I'm a scientist. I don't claim to develop technology, it's really not my thing. I do end up developing techniques as I need them to answer questions, but I'm a basic scientist, not an applied scientist. I agree though, that grants where you promise to develop treatments or technology seem to have higher funding rates. I think basic science is going the way of the dodo, unfortunately.
"At 10:57 PM, Anonymous said...
Why is the cure cancer goal so popular. Cancer is a disease which MOSTLY affects old people, and they are going to die soon anyway. Is it not smarter to try to treat and cure diseases that affect mostly young people, so they have a chance to live life and then get old and drop dead from cancer. Think about it
Actually it was the pediatric cases in my building that really got me inspired to study cancer when I first started out. But that's just me.
I'm not going to go into why my research is relevant to cancer, you'll just have to take my word for it. But I'm interested in other diseases, too.... I'm so specialized now (aren't most postdocs?) that I'm more interested in diseases as they relate to my favorite proteins/pathways rather than being interested in a particular disease that's totally unrelated to my expertise. It's horrible but it's true- it's really hard to switch fields at this point, so I'm trying to play to my strengths and work in areas where I think I can make a difference.
If anything I think cancer funding is going down, since the number of cancer deaths is actually going down, because we're better at detection now. Scientifically, though, I think it's a really interesting disease, since cancer cells are in some ways more evolved, more 'fit', than 'normal' cells. And lots of things change as a cell progresses from being normal to having this enormous advantage. And it affects people of all ages (although, as you point out, not all age groups are affected equally).
If anything, as I get older I know more people who have cancer or are related to someone who has cancer (or died from it). In some ways that makes me feel better about what I do. Other days I'm frustrated there's so much we still don't know.