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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« What The Referees Really Think | Main | Arsenic in DNA: The Kinetic Argument. »

January 28, 2011

Friday Mental Health Break: "Bad Project"

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Posted by Derek

A reader sent this along to me, and I figured that many folks who are in (or have been through) academia can relate. This is the Hui Zheng lab at Baylor, with their Gaga-esque production of. . .Bad Project:

Congratulations to them. It's a good thing that there was no YouTube back when I was in that position, or I might have gotten myself in a lot of trouble. . .

Comments (39) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Academia (vs. Industry)


1. Becky on January 28, 2011 9:59 AM writes...

So funny and so true. Reminds me of the skits we used to put on as first years....

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2. Virgil on January 28, 2011 10:25 AM writes...

You tax dollars hard at work.

Not super-funny, and the girl can't sing.

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3. Virgil on January 28, 2011 10:27 AM writes...

You tax dollars hard at work.

Not super-funny, and the girl can't sing.

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4. Hap on January 28, 2011 10:33 AM writes...

Considering how much grad students make, that's, what, $30?

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5. Nat on January 28, 2011 10:46 AM writes...

You tax dollars hard at work.

So, any time a grad student has fun, that's a waste of your tax dollars? Most do occasionally get evenings and weekends off, you know.

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6. road on January 28, 2011 10:47 AM writes...

I'm amazed that this has over 1,000,000 views. Are there that many scientists out there??? Can non-scientists possibly find this amusing???

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7. bbooooooya on January 28, 2011 10:51 AM writes...

Not quite as polished as the B students at CBS (, but I was impressed. Clever costume design, too.

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8. Anonymous on January 28, 2011 11:08 AM writes...

all work and no play . . . Making this video probably did more for lab teamwork than all those lab meetings. I thought it was a lot more creative that that Christmas tree I made with lab clamps and plastic stuff.

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9. Anonymous on January 28, 2011 11:14 AM writes...

@ #6, Saw this in a Chinese site popular with scientists and engineers (here and probably in China) a couple days of ago. That probably explains 1,000,000+ views.

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10. DT on January 28, 2011 11:37 AM writes...


I don't know, but I've had no fewer than 8 people send me this video, from my current lab mates to friends from grad school - it's gone viral on Facebook in science circles!

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11. toxchick on January 28, 2011 11:39 AM writes...

This is frighteningly like one of my grad school projects--trying to recreate an experiment done by a Korean postdoc. I did that Western blot so many times! I even had someone translate his "notebook", only to find that it said "which band right one?" in some places.

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12. Anon on January 28, 2011 11:41 AM writes...

Speaking of bad projects...

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13. Anonymous on January 28, 2011 11:45 AM writes...

Haha #2 - is that Virgil COWELL??

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14. anchor on January 28, 2011 12:37 PM writes...

#12, do not minimize the impact of this paper as it refutes the claim that halomomadacea bacteria incorporates arsenic for phosphorous. The authors on the basis of kinetic arguments (phosphodiester versus arsenodiester hydrolysis) raise a very valid question with regard to the existence of such a bacterial organism, while the debate continues.

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15. partial agonist on January 28, 2011 12:55 PM writes...

I enjoyed it a lot and thought it was well done. It helps to have teenage daughters who listen to Lady Gaga and (frighteningly) like some of her fashion choices. I cracked up at the foreign language part.

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16. Anonymous on January 28, 2011 1:35 PM writes...

Sorry to be a downer, but is this a wise thing for the participants to have floating around the internet? In this age where employers are VERY cautious about looking into potential employees' internet footprints I don't know if I'd want to be well-known for making a viral video complaining about being stuck on a tough project in grad school.

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17. David P on January 28, 2011 2:48 PM writes...

@16: It is a valid point, but if I was knocked back for a job because of a humorous video of this sort, then I am doubtful that I wanted to work there anyway.

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18. emjeff on January 28, 2011 2:55 PM writes...

A lot of you all need to lighten up, that is damn funny...

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19. GreedyCynicalSelfInterested on January 28, 2011 3:18 PM writes...

I was impressed. They did the voice processing, so she did sing well. I felt sorry for her by the end of the video.

It's all so true that I almost had post-traumatic stress symptoms when viewing this.

There was a guy in our group who was given a partially finished project that took him six years to do.

Then there was another guy who got a project that had been left unfinished by at least 3 prior workers.

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20. Anon on January 28, 2011 4:17 PM writes...

#14: i mean the original arsenic bacterium paper is a bad project.

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21. Derek Lowe on January 28, 2011 5:21 PM writes...

#16, I know what you mean. But honestly, I'd probably be *more* inclined to hire someone if I knew that they had enough creativity to do this. Not everyone may see it that way.

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22. bbooooooya on January 28, 2011 5:55 PM writes...

On watching the video again I was more and more impressed. In choosing between 2 closely matched candidates, I'd be more likely to select the participants in this video: there are already enough mindless corporate drones in the workforce.

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23. Sili on January 28, 2011 6:20 PM writes...

You tax dollars hard at work.

Not super-funny, and the girl can't sing.

Yet some hundred thousand people have now seen that being a post grad student isn't all about staring at beakers all day, and a similar number of students students have had their day lightened by recognition. And this is not worth a days pay?

LaClair you very much.

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24. Kevin on January 28, 2011 6:29 PM writes...

I got a half dozen links to it and I am more of a business man than a scientist these days. Reminded me of the sulfur trapping project I had in graduate school.

From the industrial side, damn straight I'd hire one of them. Creativity is almost always a plus.

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25. Cytirps on January 28, 2011 7:39 PM writes...

It' a pretty serious production and funny as hell. Whoever produce this video please do not continue in grad school and find a real job.

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26. Jumbo on January 28, 2011 10:25 PM writes...

How could anyone not see this as simple humor. If you took 5 min to read their explanation, the department has a retreat where apparently labs have to make humorous presentations. Clearly the Zheng lab will win this year's prize! (at least if Simon Cowell isn't a judge!!).

As for negative career impact, I'm with Derek, this woman has a leg up in any lab looking for someone who will bond well with the team and bring creative thinking to a project. Having had an advisor who wouldn't spring for a sample collector and having to manually collect samples off an HPLC column for days and weeks, I wish I had found this team's sense of humor. Clearly they will be appearing on Leno or Letterman before the end of February!

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27. haha on January 28, 2011 11:08 PM writes...

These guys go to Baylor. It's not as if they have any actual job prospects, so, let the m post whatever they want on the web!

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28. bromine on January 29, 2011 12:09 PM writes...

They can also pay for Baylor, so not like they're worried or anything... v0v

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29. SP on January 29, 2011 2:50 PM writes...

You know that somewhere a biosafety officer is freaking out about the biohazard-bag dress.

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30. Frustrated Chemist on January 29, 2011 11:20 PM writes...

Awesome video. Wish my lab did fun stuff like this when I was in grad school.

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31. Anonymous BMS Researcher on January 30, 2011 11:24 AM writes...

When I showed this video to my wife (whom I met in grad school), she said, "but every year beyond five in grad school counts as a century off from Purgatory because time in grad school *is* Purgatory."

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32. Geo on January 30, 2011 1:26 PM writes...

Fantastic Video with Spot-On Commentary.

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33. Anonymous on January 30, 2011 11:55 PM writes...

When you couple this video with politics / favoritism (nepotism) it resembles Roche in a big way. HAHA funny stuff..
We all realize that working outside the box is important. The guys that drag projects on and on in pharma (elected to do so because of favoritism) and just go through the motions will ultimately meet Lady GAGA at some point. Hehe

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34. Jonadab the Unsightly One on January 31, 2011 6:49 AM writes...

Does it make me a geek if the thing that bothered me most about the video was that she said in the lyrics that the previous dude's stuff was written in Thai, but in the video it clearly wasn't Thai? (I believe it was a Chinese language. Leastwise, it was written with Chinese characters and was neither Japanese nor Korean.)

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35. Chemjobber on January 31, 2011 9:46 AM writes...

@Jonadab: The *protocol* was written in Thai. The vials were labeled in Chinese.

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36. Whoever on February 1, 2011 1:47 PM writes...

It is more enjoyable if you can understand the Chinese labels on those vials.

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37. Jack Bauer on February 5, 2011 2:56 AM writes...

Some of you need to calm down, this is a well done clever parody (!!) for a lab retreat. That's it. I'm sure her actual project is going fine.

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38. Anonymous on February 7, 2011 2:24 PM writes...

@16. If her science is even half as good as this video, I'd take her as a post-doc any day!

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39. RI_Chemist on February 7, 2011 4:25 PM writes...

I thought it very clever and well done. There is nothing in this video that doesn't pass the "Mom" Test. Some of the sourpuss comments in here are a bit disturbing, however.

I did notice that no one commented that seeing this video would make them want to go to grad school. I will make sure my son sees this before he signs on the dotted line in April.

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