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Outside the Lab Profession, Training and education

The Magic of Mystery

Recently, I was engaged in a rather hard-fought Nerf battle with the young son of a colleague. There were all sorts of rules – chief among them that I was never allowed to fire my gun, whereas it was apparently open season on me. At one point, his pneumatic weapon ran out of air pressure, and instead of launching themselves directly at my head, the darts made a half-hearted flop onto the floor between us.

“It didn’t work,” he said.

“No, because you ran out of pressure,” I replied.

“Why does it do that?”

At six years old, I thought a full understanding of the physics involved might be a little beyond him – but for every piece of information I gave him, he had another question. “Why does the air make the dart fly?” “How does the pump make pressure?” “What’s a molecule?” I was reminded that I knew from an early age that science was the right path for me – because there were always more questions than answers. Because the world was a mystery, and I wanted to solve it. Lofty goals for a small child – but, after all, isn’t that what science and medicine are all about? And what greater mysteries are there to solve than those contained within our own flawed, fallible human bodies?

Shortly thereafter, I went on a tour of Great Ormond Street Hospital’s diagnostic laboratories (prepare yourself for an epic cover feature next month). I had the privilege of meeting a group of professionals who are developing and refining a new approach to solving medical mysteries. Working on The Pathologist, I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to find out about all kinds of new approaches – artificial intelligence, superpowered microscopes, integrated omics…

Even so, it’s no less fascinating to explore tried and tested methods of investigation. Members of the Arkady M. Rywlin International Pathology Slide Seminar Club, for instance, conduct their investigations using exclusively glass slides, forgoing the ease of digital images. Last issue’s “Case of the Month” focused on a medical mystery that dates all the way back to 1849. And with the rise of molecular diagnostics and other new technologies, it’s more important than ever to remember the value of traditional histology and cytology in the laboratory.

We aim to fill each issue of The Pathologist with mysteries – both solved and unsolved; if you have a story (or slide) whose magic or enigmatic nature is worth sharing, please do get in touch ([email protected]) – you never know what your colleagues might find interesting!

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About the Author
Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

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