THE WISHING WELL
Fairy Tales and Bedtime Stories for Scientists
Once upon a time in a Lab far far away, Princess Jane was a second year graduate student trying to clone a gene from maize. It was a bold and difficult Task set by her Supervisor. Jane toiled day and night optimizing her reactions, but to no avail. The Task was incomplete and the deadline fast approaching. “If I don’t finish this part of the project soon, then my thesis will be incomplete,” she thought sadly.
One evening, as Princess Jane was setting up her reaction for the twentieth time, she paused to reflect on her misfortunes. “The gene is too long!” she thought. “The design is too difficult!” she lamented. “The reaction just won’t work!” she cried, as despair set in. “Ah well,” she sighed. “Graduate student life must go on.”
As the midnight hour fast approached, Jane completed setting up her reaction. And with thoughts of hope and redemption dropped her tubes into the 37°C water bath just as the clock struck midnight. “Well, here goes. I wish this works!” she thought. And then a most mysterious and amazing thing happened.
The smooth, clear surface of the water shimmered gently as though disturbed by a breeze and out popped a fairy from the depths of the water bath. “I am Clonelia, Queen of the Lab Fairies,” declared the watery sprite in a smooth, clear voice. “I am here to grant your cloning wishes.”
Princess Jane’s initial shock quickly turned to elation. In a moment’s flash she saw all her dreams come true. “How does this work?” she asked excitedly.
“Every night, at the stroke of midnight, I can grant one wish. All you need to do is summon me by placing tubes in the water. I will fulfill your dreams.”
“Wow,” sighed Princess Jane. “Every night. Wait – every night at midnight?”
“Yes,” said Clonelia. “Well that’s just ridiculous,” said Jane. “I’m already here on weekends. I’m not working ‘til midnight every night. I’ll do my cloning myself.”
And with that, Princess Jane went home to bed.
Moral: Striking a work-life balance is as important as striking gold.