Great words to a six-year-old but somewhat meaningless until I graduated from University and was given my first job. Then I quickly learned the value of that motto: that to be really productive and creative, you had to learn a lot about many things.

Under the microscope

The aim of “Under the Microscope” is to take you on a journey beyond the lab. Topics in this series will range from career choices to aspects of science that truly fascinate me.

Detailed knowledge can answer some, maybe even many questions. But the really important questions and answers may span across several fields. Consequently, as scientists, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just addressing science questions.

A contemporary drawing of a building as DNA
Photo by Alexander Popov

Sometimes we may need to intersect bench science and engineering:

how do I build an instrument to sequence DNA?

Sometimes it may be science and business:

I have a great idea, how do I start a company?

And sometimes it’s just being able to translate what is happening in a pandemic to our relatives around the dinner table. In the first set of Under the Microscope articles, I’ll explore how to communicate the science surrounding the SARS-CoV-2 virus to non-scientists.

How to communicate science to non-scientists

COVID-19 has been horrific on an international level but it has presented a remit for us biologists: to ‘translate’ what’s happening to the non-science people around us. By doing so, we may be able to give them insight into the impact of decisions made during this time. The hope is that a more informed and knowledgeable public is a public better able to help guide policy.

These articles derived from my attempt to explain things like PCR, antibody testing, test accuracy, viral load, etc. to my relatives who were smart people but had no scientific training.

I aim to give you a starting point to explain some of the common phrases that have been widely used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With the added bonus to finally prove to Lynda, Mollie, and Valerie, my three sisters, that getting a PhD in Genetics wasn’t a complete waste of time and money!

One important caveat, I’m writing these articles in ‘real-time’ with the current information available. As we learn more, particularly about SARS-CoV-2, some of our understanding will evolve or even change completely.

The same may be true of the study of anything: I once went to a seminar where a physician quoted that half of what he learned in Med School was no longer true! However, the world is a fantastic place and my inclination will be to look forward and write about new things.

Check out the first Under the Microscope article to discover how to easily describe DNA, RNA, and proteins to people without a scientific background.

About Dr Michael Weiner

Dr Michael Weiner is Abcam’s Vice President of Molecular Sciences. Throughout his career he has founded more than four biotech companies, including Affomix, GnuBio, and AxioMx.

Throughout his career, Dr Weiner has developed several tools widely used in molecular biology. These include the first commercial Next Generation DNA sequencing instrument, a bead-based genotyping method, and improved methods for the production of monoclonal antibodies.

Beyond his career as a scientist, Dr Weiner is a dedicated mentor to multiple bioscience professionals. He is also an inventive artist!

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