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In support of Scott Kern

January 10, 2015

This is completely unrelated to cell phone repair, but sometimes you just have to speak up.
Many of you know that in my former life, I worked in the field of cancer research.  I studied with an amazingly unique mentor, Scott E. Kern, MD.
I haven't kept up with the latest adventures in the Kern lab, so I was horrified this morning to essentially see that the internet has been making fun of one of his ideas for the last four years.  Not on my watch.  

This is what I have to say about it.  

Mind. Blown. Am I the only one who missed this? Went to see what my beloved old PhD mentor, Scott Kern, was up to these days. Scott was such a great thinker--always able to see things from unique angles that the rest of us missed. Ever the skeptic, he taught me to question everything and never accept convention. 
But more than ANY other faculty member at Hopkins, he demonstrated work-life balance. At 5:30pm he was out of there. I remember standing on a dark sidewalk on night looking up at the brightly lit Ross building and seeing women faculty members moving in the lab. Where are their babies? I knew in that moment that I couldn't follow their path. But NOT Scott. He was always at the dinner table. Every night was reading Goodnight Moon. He started his day at 4am (joking that he woke up at 4am after the coffee from 3am kicked in). He spoke of the mental discipline, of thinking of your brain cell's protest in waking as a cancer that must be beaten in order to maintain that schedule.

I am STUNNED this morning to see a hashtag on Twitter spawned from a 2010 article he wrote. #K3RN3D "Kerned" Guess what it means? Anyone?

I would expect it to convey a time when someone defies convention, or proves an established theory wrong. It was Scott who said "Who decided that Tris-EDTA is the best buffer for agarose gels?" And he was right, it was an accidental finding propagated by the sheep-like mentality of the masses. Scott found a better way, through science, and now the world uses Lithia Buffer and has developed better ones since.

Scott says "Why do we not care about all of the massive effort that goes into proving things wrong? The negative findings. The boring, unpublishable, trash---which therefore go undescribed and subject to repeated wasted effort?  So he started his own online journal NOGO--Negative Observations in Genetic Oncology. So friggin' smart!

He always cared about waste and inefficiency. He took the stairs, two at a time, not three at time--a habit based on scientific timing. He ate plain oatmeal every single day in a coffee cup--more efficient. He knew, and posted, the PER TIP price of each pipette tip, each glove, so we had an awareness of how we were spending the money that well-intentioned REAL people had given from their pockets in the name of cancer research. NOBODY else did this.

#K3RN3D SHOULD mean "convention turned on its head" It SHOULD mean "found a way to do something better for less"

But no. It is an asshole word. It is an insult. It means "You're not working hard enough" As in this random tweet: Just got #k3rn3d by boss for sitting around talking w/ L, even though a) we were talking abt data; b) he hasn't been in on a wknd in ages.

What a shit legacy for a brilliant investigator. 
It comes, apparently, from this published commentary.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093808/

The internet's implication of him as a slave driver is SO FAR from who he is. He was in the Vogelstein lab as a student around the clock and made amazing contributions to science. As a Principal Investigator, it WAS OUR JOB to produce for him, and his job to be a Dad. We could have done better. I could have done better.

I read the article, and, as usual, HE IS SO RIGHT.
Being in the lab on nights and weekends is fun. If you're a young, single grad student with no demands of cub scouts, soccer, and serving up mac-n-cheese----get in the fucking lab! Be creative! Go question a convention! 
Look at something in a different way. Stop acting like robot sheep and doing spinner technology projects (Another one of Scott's pet peeves---The effect of (spin the spinner) on (spin the spinner).

Research HAS become sterile. It is ABSOLUTELY true that you become divorced from the reality of the disease---and that's wrong! I never developed that gut-wrenching appreciation for the weight of these horrible diagnoses until it happened to a friend. We don't have the right to do that. So listen to Scott---you young unattached research students. Instead of heading to Friday happy hour, go into the hospital or find someone online that is suffering from the disease you're researching. Spend that time to make a connection with them. Really know who they are. Put a picture of them at your bench. This is your field and real people are counting on your brilliant mind. Fuck convention. Find your passion. Never get #K3RN3D

With this issue of CB&T, we introduce the first in an occasional series of articles on topics that impact our work or shape our professional lives. Our aim is to provide a platform for points of view that are both insightful and thought provoking. Have a perspective you'd like to share or an issue y…
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Never met the man, but thanks for candidly sharing your personal experience of him. It is about finding a purpose and a passion for life. Give it meaning, make your life matter, find your passion. Thank you for sharing!

Can't tell you how many times I've pulled my hair out at "conventional wisdom." It's got to the point now where even questioning someone's unsupported assertions gets me immediately labeled as a "science denier" -- by people who don't even recognize that the questions I'm asking are FOLLOWING STANDARD SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY PROCEDURES!

I hope I get an opportunity to meet Dr. Kern in person some day so I can buy him the adult beverage of his choice.

Thanks for passing this along!

Hi iPad repair

Hope all is well
Can you tell me if you repair logic boards mac book computers.

Thanks
Justin zambrana

#1 Your passion shows, and that is the critical ingredient required to be successful. Whether someone acknowledges you or not, you are going to die one very satisfied human being. Bravo, your grasp is challenging your reach to prove itself worthy of bearing your wonderful extended hand. You get what life is all about. Can't wait to hear when you delve into SMD soldering (wink)

#2 Carcinoma disease; a condition of gene fault. Wideband gene therapy (antinoplastinos, around since 1977) is the only true path to correcting this as it addresses the oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. It is refused its rightful front position in medicine due to the MASSIVE industry built-up around radiation and chemical therapy. In a word this is "corruption", due to the billions thrown at cancer research each year that will never reach apogee because of corrupt individuals at the top whose only intent is to make money, NOT cure a disease. If the industry were properly run, who knows, we could put cancer behind us and be concentrating on the next great step in gene research, having telomeres cycle more than 50 to 70 times.

I am not 'blasting' you or Scott, in fact I am tickled by both your drives with a governor of sanity. What I am daring your associates in the field to do is use those microscopes in a unconventional fashion... by briefly turning them inward to find the vector that will allow the briscence of a new tool to stream out like laser beams; finding that rare commodity I call 'depth of vision'.

You should know you have yet one more fan. Never stop beating on the door and demanding more from everyone and everything. We were born to ascend.

REJD, Electromagnetic Spectrum Authority/ retired

One aspect I found interesting of Kern's article was that it was graduate students in the lab on the weekends, and not the career researchers. This is entirely consistent with my observations throughout graduate school. Why is it that the graduate students, who are considered "trainees," are the ones in the lab? At least in my research area, it seems the entire thing is a pyramid, with the people doing the actual research, working the most hours, and getting the least pay, at the bottom, while all those qualities strongly reverse as you move toward the top of the pyramid. That said, I worked very hard (many weekends) and was very productive in graduate school, not for the salary but because I wanted to "get stuff done". I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, though, looking back -- it seems like a really lousy deal for graduate students since the career prospects and remuneration are so poor in academia. I can look back and be proud of what I did, but a career in software development is intellectually stimulating, far more in demand, and much better compensated. I think people's aggravation with Kern's article and the #k3rn3d hashtag are based on this dichotomy: why is it that scientists are expected to work themselves to the bone on extremely relevant societal problems for little pay, while the rest of society can expect to earn a more comfortable living doing other professional work?



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