Nobel Prize of Chemistry 2013….Reflections about how a teacher drifted me away from Bioinformatics

Nobel Chemistry

As each October of each year, it is one of the most waited event….Nope it is not Halloween….It is the Nobel Prize in science (I will not give my opinion about the Peace one because these last few years I found it it was given with a lot of flaws and not justified rationales).
Yes, today it was the Chemistry one, after the Physiology/Medicine one (that is also impressive as a neuroscientist geek) and the Physic one (Higgs boson, this one I was guessing was on the hotlist after the excitement earlier this year).
Today I found was a well deserved Prize and also a bit chauvinistic to have a professor of my alma matter brought another prize home. It also reminded me 10 years earlier on when I was a sophomore at college and I was hit with the buzz word “Bioinformatics”. That was sounding so awesome for the geek I was. Imagine that, blending my love for Biology and my love for computer (well maybe I was not even to a stage of a script-kiddie back then). I wanted to go to that direction and took the path for getting a degree then.
At first I liked it, because it was chem-intensive but I liked organic chemistry and biochemistry but then something got wrong. Something got sour. Something or I rather say someone, especially two faculty members well-established in the structural biology field. One was in nucleic acid and one in protein folding. I dont know why but their lecture were very aggressive and few considerate of students….It was like we were idiots lazy party goers that it was a waste of time to take them out of their lab to come teach us, that we were not deserving their science to be taught on us.
And that was it, my cold shower, that little voice to me said “No way! Never again!”. Then I gave up in pursuing that career and found myself much more happy in Neurosciences and Pharmacology. Although the teacher were harsh on assignments and notations, they had that kind of respect, that engaging lectures and interactions with the students that makes them go over the challenge of passive learning into an active learning. I felt so good about it that I switched my Master into a Neurosciences/Pharmacology one, pursued in Pharmacology and even faced again the same “bioinformatics” but this time realized how useful it can be and how interested it can if you have the right teacher, the right instructor. But then my interest was somewhere else and have other research endeavors I was deep in. I was this generation of students in which G-protein coupled receptor crystallography was the next “Nobel Prize” because it was a pain to have such structure crystallized, when the cDNA microarray by Affymetrix was in and trendy and just having a sequence was a paper per se (I think now you gonna have to go way beyond and Affymetrix is so 2000’s).
I am still here, still in science, enjoying the tidbit of science because it is like a puzzle in whcih you generate jigsaw and firstly trouble to assemble these pieces together and then you start to assemble them and get a clearer picture.
It also reminds me that a teacher plays an important model for students and it should be done by interests not by burden. A great teacher is the one that engage the students and go over his status. A great teacher is the one that brings this excitement of learning and how science works and does not. A great teacher is the one that set challenges but also recognize the effort and acknowledge the student for it.
Dear Eric W. and Jean C. (because I am now a colleague), I wished you changed your mind on students and hopefully embraced an active learning in your class. There are some wizkids outside in the class than be fantastic for bioinformatics, but if you want to get them into your rank, engage them.


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