Ghost of Rosalind Franklin Walks Into Your Lab

“If ever you hear of anybody anxious for the services of a physical chemist who knows very little physical chemistry, but quite a lot about the holes in coal, please let me know.”

- Rosalind Franklin

Actual quote from Rosalind Franklin to her friend, French scientist, Adrienne Weill after she finished her doctorate.  Which is, in fact, precisely how I feel about lab research.

Thesis Title: “Biochemical Analysis of Salmonella Type III Secretion System Effector Protein Sop B”

Realistic Title: “Number of Times Human Subject Can Perform French Press Cell Lysis While Maintaining Limited Sanity” or “Is That A Band On My Western Blot Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?”

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By the way, did I mention that Rosalind Franklin completed her PhD at 25? Right.  Our Lady of Perpetual Subjugation was a superior chemist.  Before Franklin’s infamous work  capturing the double helix, she made key contributions to the field of carbon science and coal.  Coal was integral to Britain’s war effort at the time and her work discerning the microstructures and measuring the porosity of coal allowed for classification and highly accurate performance prediction of this key substance during the early to mid twentieth century. She went on to work in France at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat in Paris where she learned and mastered the technique of x-ray crystallography, all before the age of 30.  Her expertise in crystallography and x-ray diffraction made her an ideal candidate to study the complex structure of DNA at King’s College. (And we all know how that turned out.)  Her career did not end there, however, she proceeded to carry out important work on viruses and RNA until her death at the age of 38.  Following her death, J.D. Bernal, a pioneer in X-ray crystallography, said that Franklin took some of the most beautiful x-ray diffraction photos ever done.

Unfortunately I can speak from experience, growing successful crystals is not easy and is definitely not like making rock candy.  Could you imagine how much easier your life would be in Rosalind Franklin was your lab partner?

We considered reanimating Rosalind and floated the idea of a Tupac-style hologram to come to lab class with you but decided that a “Zombie Ros” is way too creepy and a room full of holographic chemists sounds a tad Star Trek: Voyager (Shout out to Captain Janeway).

Instead we have this video tutorial.

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Watching a JoVE video is like checking in with an expert chemist whenever you want.  You can watch a video the night before lab class so that you look like a pro.  You can watch it while walking to class that morning (look both ways before crossing the street, by the way).  You could even watch it during your lab (as long as your professor allows it).

Remember, you’re a chemistry major (or minor, or maybe bio, or you just like taking college level chemistry courses); you can do anything! Especially now that you have the technique skills of Rosalind Franklin.


Harris, Peter J.F. Rosalind Franklin’s work on coal, carbon, and graphite. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews2001, 26, 204-209.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Profiles in Science: The Rosalind Franklin Papers. (accessed March 28, 2016).

JoVE on PRI’s The World radio show

This afternoon, JoVE was highlighted on PRI’s The World radio broadcast. CEO Moshe Pritsker addressed how science was broken but that sharing methods via video can help alleviate the strain of trying to replicate others’ results. To learn more about what sparked the need for a modern way to communicate scientific methods, you can read the complete article found here.

A Complete (and Factual!) History of Science Video

Video Killed The Radio Star

Science’s Entrance into the Age of the “Talkies”

This is a guest post by Adam Ruben, PhD. The opinions expressed are his own.

Scientific journals are great—they communicate technical results, postulate new theories, and help cure insomnia. But the Journal of Visualized Experiments is different. JoVE represents a new breed of scientists, a generation aware that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand words plus a pop-up ad.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of JoVE’s 2500th video article, let’s examine the history of scientific results distributed by digital video:

New JoVE Articles 03/27/2013

JoVE General

Single-molecule Imaging of Gene Regulation In vivo Using Cotranslational Activation by Cleavage (CoTrAC)
Article 50042 Zach Hensel1, Xiaona Fang1,2,3, Jie Xiao11Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 3Department of Physics, Jilin UniversityPublished March 15, 2013 | 467 Views

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Iron-Oxidizing Bacteria and Einstein’s Brain

Want to impress your friends with knowledge of the most cutting edge scientific research? You’re in luck, here is your weekly headlines from across the scientific world:

  • Scientists train iron-oxidizing bacteria to sruvive on electrons. These special bacteria could potentially be bioengineered to produce fuels from atmospheric CO2 when paired with electric sources like solar panels or wind turbines.
  • University of Arizona researchers are studying recently emerging flies that eat toxic plant matter instead of yeast and microbes. These new flies can help researchers understand how species evolve in a short time frame.
  • By generating silicon microbeads, University of Oslo researchers have developed solar panels that use 95% less silicon than industry standard solar cells. By making the cells from 10 micrometer thick spheres, light is manipulated to make the solar harvesting potential equivalent to a cell that is 25 times thicker.
  • Albert Einstein is considered one of the smartest men of the 20th century, but was it hard studying or a larger brain that made him understand fundamental laws of the universe. A study from November’s issue of Brain implies that Einstein’s cerebral cortex dramatically differs from that of a normal person and may have contributed to his insights.
  • Make sure to check back next week for more headlines tfrom the scientific community!

    Data stored in DNA? Self Healing Wires?

    Time again for your weekly headlines from across the scientific world:

  • Can human beings use DNA as a long-term data storage device? Scientists from the UK’s European Bioinformatics Institute have developed a technique to store data in DNA with a 99.9% accuracy. Some of the first items stored: Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and Watson and Crick’s paper describing the structure of DNA.
  • Ever wonder what happens in the brain while you read silently? A new study in Journal of Neuroscience shows that the areas of the brain associated with voice are activated when a person silently reads, and is evidence that different areas of the brain (visual and auditory) work together to communicate.
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from a recent JoVE article

  • Researchers from IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have worked together to create special antimicrobial hydrogels. These water soluble, biodegradable gels disrupt biofilm production to kill even drug resistant bacteria.
  • Have your headphones ever stopped working because the wire breaks? There may be a solution. Chemical and molecular biologists from North Carolina State University have made new wires that are elastic and self-repairing thanks to self-healing polymers and liquid conductive wires.
  • Stem cell biologists at Kyoto University have developed kidney tissue from induced pluripotent stem cells. This is an important first step towards developing functional kidney replacements, which could save the lives of the more than 4500 people who die waiting for a kidney transplant every year.
  • Make sure to check back next week for more headlines from the scientific community, and check out all of the cutting edge research from JoVE, the world’s first peer-reviewed, pub-med indexed video methods journal.

    New Subscribing Institutions and This Year In JoVE!

    How’s your week going, faithful readers? Once again, JoVE’s library team has brought Journal of Visualized Experiments to new users all around the world. Here are some of the new schools we’re excited for:

    1. University Teknologi Petronas in Malaysia- Bioengineering
    2. Universiti Putra Malaysia in Malaysia – Applied Physics
    3. Academia Sinica in Taiwan- Bioengineering and Applied Physics
    4. Bowdoin College in Maine- Neuroscience
    5. Rivier College in New Hampshire- JoVE General

    Want to get a JoVE subscription at your school? Click here to recommend JoVE to your librarian. Plus, check out our year in review with This Year in JoVE!

    Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

    We spend one third of our lives sleeping. “If sleep doesn’t serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the greatest mistake the evolutionary process ever made” – Professor Emeritus Dr. Allan Rechtschaffen, University of Chicago. As a parent I instinctively make sure that my children get enough hours of sleep, but then stay up late working. Turns out I am not doing myself any favors.

    Scientists presenting their research at the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans report that even a 20% daily sleep deficit is sufficient for loss in cognitive function, impairs memory and alters the normal behavior of brain cells. According to Ted Abel, University of Pennsylvania, loss of only 20% of daily sleep deprivation impairs spatial memory consolidation. Furthermore, according to Gina Poe, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, adequate sleep is critical for strengthening incompletely learned memories and integrating the old and new information into a coherent memory. Sleep is necessary for strengthening the synapses for the formation of memories as well as weakening the synapses for “inconsequential” memories, e.g. where you parked your car.

    According to Dr. Giulio Tononi, University of Wisconsin, Madison, “Sleep synaptic strength is globally renormalized to a basal level that is energetically sustainable and beneficial for memory and performance. Sleep is the price we pay for plasticity.” He also states that if we are sleep restricted, small parts of our brain may fall asleep even though we think we are completely awake. As a consequence we may make mistakes.

    Clearly there are consequences as we continue to burn the midnight oil and surely I should sleep as I have an early morning flight to catch to go back home. Make sure to check out JoVE at booth 143 tomorrow and tell us about your research.

    Greening Science: JoVE and the Environment

    During my time as an undergraduate, I developed a care for the environment and an interest in how science and engineering can help preserve the planet. Oddly enough, my organic chemistry professor was a key influence, as he was involved in spreading the message about green chemistry. Green chemistry is chemistry that, by design, is inherently safer for human health and the environment. All of the students in my classes learned the 12 principles of green chemistry and enacted these through student projects and weekly laboratory experiments. We came to see that by designing and performing our experiments with certain principles in mind, we were able to make less of an impact on the environment, while still learning all about alkenes, alkynes, ketones, and aromatics. By including green chemistry in my chemical education, I learned that you don’t necessarily have to be studying environmental science to make a positive impact on the planet, and that these principles can be applied to many aspects of life.

    Image taken from

    Reflecting on this now, I not only see how important this perspective is for daily life, but for all of scientific exploration. Both those conducting and reporting all forms of scientific research can make an impact in greening science. In addition to clearly-defined organizations that are using green chemistry for scientific and planet impact, like the WarnerBabcock Institute for Green Chemistry, JoVE plays a key, but not often realized role, in this movement of green science. Hearkening back to the 12 principles of green chemistry, the very first principle is: Pollution Prevention-it  is better to prevent waste than treat and clean up waste after it has formed.

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