During my childhood, my family and I spent many a vacation in the Swiss Alps. From the mountain tops I used to look out into the horizon as far as the eye could see with peak upon peak stretching out into the distance. If I was lucky, I would have a map that allowed me to identify each peak, perhaps even distinguish the highest from the lowest and thus really get a sense that I understood the underlying topography. However, I quickly realized how little I actually knew about the vast, undulating Swiss countryside. What I had initially observed as a homogenous ‘mat’ of peaks stretching out into the horizon was in fact a rippling of deep valleys that would make an afternoon hike anything but a walk in the breeze.
Looking back on these experiences I am struck by how closely they reflect the landscape of modern science— a broad mat of detailed knowledge with its own peaks of specialization. I am reminded of the words of writer Bill Bryson who described science as “tens of thousands of people that do tiny, tiny things that all accrete into a larger body of knowledge” (1). Continue reading “STATs and ChIPs- Learning A Lesson Or Two About Transcriptional Activation”