By Jackie Wirz, Ph.D.
Any of you ever watch The Big Bang Theory? For the uninitiated, The Big Bang Theory is a sitcom that documents the lives of physicist Sheldon, fellow physicist Leonard, aerospace engineer Howard and astrophysicist Rajesh. Okay, that sounds far less humorous than the show actually is – trust me when I say it is hilarious. Or maybe that’s just my geek showing…
In any case, one of my favorite Big Bang moments shows the most realistic depiction of the scientific method in action ever captured on television. The clip (embedded below) shows Sheldon and Rajesh doing some research on dark matter, set to the Rocky theme song “Eye of the Tiger”. There are no fancy low-lighting effects, no advanced looking machines, no exceptionally good looking scientists looking important and smart in the background. Actually, there is no action whatsoever: Sheldon and Rajesh spend the entire montage staring thoughtfully at an equation on a whiteboard. And it is awesome.
Research science is often depicted in a less-than accurate way. From scientifically implausible explanations to results that miraculously appear mere seconds after submission, the gaffes of TV science tend to be egregious. The Big Bang Theory captures one of the many reasons why research science isn’t exactly a spectator sport. Experiments can be repetitive, long and boring. Analysis oftentimes consists of a researcher staring at a computer screen, with the most exciting moments consisting of brief spurts of typing and mouse clicking.
Not exactly the stuff that makes for gripping television. A show depicting chromatography in real-time would be less exciting than CSPAN.
Don’t get me wrong; research results are fascinating, and OHSU is home to many “Ah ha!” research moments that deserve documentaries and movies in their own right. So how can we learn about the amazing research that occurs every day here at OHSU?
Scientists share and communicate information in a variety of ways, ranging from scientific conferences to peer-reviewed journal articles. If you want to be inspired by the diversity of research we have to offer here at OHSU, you could check out our monthly list of published journal articles available here. But for those that don’t have time to read several hundred articles every month, I’d suggest marking your calendars for the annual Research Week event, which will be held May 20 to 24 in the OHSU Auditorium.
Research Week provides an opportunity to catch talks and poster sessions on the incredibly diverse research performed here at OHSU, presented by our faculty, students, researchers and staff. Last year’s event had more than 310 presenters, and we anticipate that this year will bring just as many fascinating looks into the most cutting edge research ranging from genomic analysis of breast cancer to the drinking behaviors of prairie voles.
OHSU research may not be a sitcom in prime time TV, but I guarantee you that this event will be infinitely more informative and engaging than any fake science you may find on your television! For more information, check out www.ohsu.edu/researchweek
Jackie Wirz is an Assistant Professor and the Biomedical Sciences Information Specialist at the Oregon Health & Science University Library. She earned her Ph.D. from Oregon Health & Science University in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and has a B.S. from Oregon State University in Biochemistry & Biophysics. Her research career has spanned 15 years and has covered diverse topics such as transcriptional regulation, macromolecular structure determination, collagen biophysics and DNA repair. Her professional interests include information, data, and knowledge management, as well as the publishing paradigms of scientists.
Additionally, Jackie is a strong proponent of science outreach and volunteers with a variety of programs designed to promote scientific literacy. Jackie believes in evolution, salted caramel buttercream and Jane Eyre.