Clemente, E.C. et al.
PhD student Elizabeth Johnson, now in her final year, has just emerged from a two-year long research rabbit-hole after her supervisor suggested she do a “quick literature search” to find out the best method to perform a phenol-chloroform DNA isolation, which he claimed was a “quick and easy” yet apparently “critical” step in a months-long protocol.
“Everything was going well at first,” said Johnson. “Sure, there were a few potentially interesting papers that only had the abstract available, as well as another one which asked me for a $128 subscription to access the poorly scanned first page of an article from 82 years ago.”
“And yes, I went all the way up to tab 18 on the PubMed search results. But after only 8 months I did manage to find the golden pot at the end of the rainbow: a recent, fully accessible paper, with a fairly detailed methods section – the dream!”
Or so it seemed.
“But apparently, Stan et al. (1998) had used the same isolation method as Xi et al. (1967), who had performed it exactly as Leblanc et al. (1912), who, in turn, seemed to have done it as our ancestors in 225,000 BC,” explained an exasperated Johnson. “Sadly, the Homo Erectus weren’t particularly good at taking notes, and didn’t leave any of their work in writing for us, so I was back at square one.”
Thankfully for Johnson, it only took another 16 months until her supervisor returned from sabbatical and remembered that the month-long protocol he had originally given me was much more complicated than needed, and a simple acid-base DNA isolation would have worked just fine.
“Once I had access to that tiny bit of information, it took me about 56 seconds to find a perfectly fine protocol for that,” concluded Elizabeth, looking exhausted, malnourished and aged, but otherwise beaming with a sort of crazed joy.
“Now I only need to finish my actual PhD in the 3 months I have left. It’ll be a piece of cake compared to this living hell!”