I just saw something on the weekly edition of Nature Jobs that made me very happy. It is something that I was waiting to see since a long time. In May 2006 Georgia Chenevix-Trench felt like sharing some of her wisdom with the youngest public of the journal Nature. In the (often embarrassing) portion of the journal called Nature Jobs, she published a Decalogue with “tips for students”; goal of the letter was to provide prospective PhD students with rules of thumbs that would help out having a successful career. Sadly enough most of them were embracing the concept of hard work and only marginally important skills such as creativity, imagination, collaborative science.
Once again, it’s Nobel Prize time. The first prize to be awarded, as expected, was for Physiology and Medicine and went to Craig Mello and Andrew Fire. Mello and Fire were awarded for their discovery of
a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information
namely what is now known as RNA interference or RNAi. Uncommonly for a Nobel Prize, this year’s award came relatively soon after the discovery to which is referred. The paper describing Fire’s and Mello’s work was published in 1998 on Nature. This has been interpreted as a sign of the outstanding importance of their discovery since usually it takes decades for a work to be recognized valuable of such an award. Now, the very fact that someone is publishing a work that is so important to inaugurate a brand new field from scratch is definitely rare and it is something that every scientist dream about. It does happen periodically and many times is, indeed, well recognized for instance with a Nobel Prize. What is very rare, though, it’s the discovery to come out of the blue, completely unexpected. Was this the case for Fire’s Work (he was the corresponding author in the paper)?
Did it ever happen to you to find yourself hitting the “get new mail” button over and over just as if it was something you cannot help but doing? Email addiction (also known as Emailoholism) seems to be a common experience for so many people working with computers and internet access. Some statistics say it might be of interest of at least 6% of internet users, meaning millions of people. Mindhacks features a wonderful, clear, article about it: here. The bottomline is that whenever we look compulsively for new email we actually obey to some reward-conditioning in our brain, as much as rats in a cage in a learning experiment.