Field of Science

Oh right, the grant proposal...

Research is fun, and it's easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day problems and discoveries that I put off addressing the longer-term goals. Such as the need to prepare a compelling research proposal that will get us lots of grant money for the next 3-5 years. (Only the best proposals get money for 5 years; the rest get it for 3.)

One of the post-docs has been doing a lot of thinking about how to study the DNA uptake machinery - this will be the main focus of the proposal. Yesterday we talked about her idea of using the little membrane 'blebs' that fall off of bacterial cells as sources enriched for the proteins of the uptake machinery (a great idea). Today she asked me about genetic approaches, quoting a maxim from Stanley Maloy, a superb bacterial geneticist and one of her instructors in the Cold Spring Harbor course in Advanced Bacterial Genetics. Stanley said something to the effect of "Protein work is all very well, but there's usually a better way that uses genetics."

So we talked about a series of experiments the lab started several years ago, which aimed to use genetic complementation to identify the gene encoding the sequence-specific part of the uptake machinery. The experiments ran into various sorts of technical and personnel problems (the technician went to South America and I had other responsibilities) and never produced the results we wanted. But now I think we're going to revive them. The post-doc brought back new methods from the Cold Spring Harbor course that will make the analysis more powerful, and she has the time and skills to focus on this problem. If nothing else the plan will be a strong part of our grant proposal.

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