Ghost of Rosalind Franklin Walks Into Your Lab

Meghan Berryman

Imagine how much easier your life would be if Rosalind Franklin was your lab partner, then (instead of going too far into Frankenstein territory) settle for the next best thing with JoVE!

“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).