What is the most important lesson you would like to pass on to new trainees?
“the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing of whether it is true or not” – Peter Medawar
For young trainees it may feel like the hypothesis is there for a reason – to be accepted as a successful hypothesis. To accept the hypothesis, experiments to prove the hypothesis need to be conducted. If the results indicate rejection of the hypothesis, the trainee may feel disappointed, that it will disappoint the seniors, that there must be mistakes in the protocol, or that the hypothesis itself was of low quality. Although these may all be true, and we all do mistakes, rejection of a hypothesis has nothing to do with its quality or the importance of the finding. Importantly, though sometimes forgotten, the scientist’s job is to try to disprove the hypothesis so it can grow stronger if it is true. So my advice is to trust your data and be proud of results opposing the hypothesis, and if you do not trust your data, feel free to repeat experiments, but do this independently of whether the initial data supported or contradicted the hypothesis – easier said than done.
What has been the most exciting experiment you have performed?
Once, I forgot to re-adjust the pH after adding a drug to the solution perfusing the cardiomyocytes in an experiment. This had a substantial effect on cellular calcium homeostasis. Luckily, I quickly detected the issue and corrected the pH. But, in a different experiment where I had corrected the pH in the solution containing a different drug, I observed similar changes in calcium homeostasis. Although these changes were in line with the effects of the drug in published works, I had to recheck the pH, which had changed markedly, and continued to change over the next hours and days. One of those annoying drugs. But definitely exciting detective work.
What are your plans for the next step in your career?
I’m not really a career person, I find careers overrated. My plan is to continue to learn new skills, both intellectually and physically. Doesn’t really matter what, most specific skills are probably outdated within a few years. Adaptability would however be a beneficial evolutionary trait that could be nice to have.