Speaking of genetics, this is the week the results from our big triple point cross (it’s a kind of mapping cross where we determine the distances between three different genes) come rolling in. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking for me, because this is the first time these students have worked with flies, it involves a series of crosses with multiple points where they can screw up, and if they all messed up, we don’t have enough time in the semester to repeat it. So every week I go into the lab, and there are students who are staring confusedly at their bottles, and wondering if they did something wrong, and telling me they are are afraid they might have added males of the wrong phenotype, or they have confused which generation is which, or things are just addling their brain and they can no longer understand what they are doing.
And my job is to puzzle it all out, or figure out how we can test and make sure they’ve got the right flies, or to explain everything to ease their addlement. This is a simple experiment, but with a mob of novice Drosophila geneticists the natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. Every time. I feel a bit like Philip Henslow in this clip from Shakespeare in Love all semester long.
And he’s right! It does turn out well in the end, for mysterious reasons that always puzzle me. They’ve started turning in the numbers from the first few groups who are ready, and they’re pretty much what I expected, and there are no major anomalies, and everyone did every single one of the crosses correctly (major errors would lead to obviously and sharply different results, so I can tell). I think we can just trust the students to try hard to do everything right.
Now they just have to analyze the data and write up a formal lab report. Where is the report? Oh, it’s coming. It’s coming.