26 Matching Annotations
  1. Apr 2017
    1. So I quit. While my wife worked, I stayed home with our daughter Kriya, who was born in 1993, and became a house husband. I really didn't know what I wanted to do

      Quit Bell labs in 1994 after ~ 6 years of postdoc/staff position.

      From an article in nytimes,

      Astonishingly, a couple of months after quitting, an insight came to me about how to make the microscope finally work. It came while I was pushing my child’s stroller. The idea involved isolating individual molecules and measuring their distance. I wrote this up in a three-page paper, which would later be noted by the Nobel Committee as one reason for giving me the prize.

      Funny thing about that paper[1]: It wasn’t much cited, probably only a hundred times in 20 years. That tells you something about the value of citations as a metric of impact.

      For the next eight years, I worked in private industry, and I discovered it was even harder to succeed there than in science.

      1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19859146
    2. I felt like every good result I had provided justification for a hundred lousy papers to follow, and that was a waste of people's time and taxpayers' money.

      anticipated sheep followers with the high-impact research, and accompanying stagnation in advancement of field of interest.

      know when to move away from the fad and follow the trend

    3. I tried the technology everywhere I could think of. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't, but the papers came quick. In 1992, we applied it to data storage - at one time we held the world record for storage density - and in the following year I demonstrated super-resolution fluorescence imaging of cells for the first time.

      beginning of successful applications in various fields

    4. I would come into work at 4:30 in the morning, and if I saw Harald's car, I would put my hand on the hood to find out if the engine was still warm. He did exactly the same thing. We were both really competitive, but we played tennis every morning and ate dinner together every night. We were best friends and still are.

      compete but be friendly

    5. I'm also lucky in that I have a second chance to be a better husband and father. While I'm close with Kriya and Ravi, one of my regrets is that I didn't spend more time with them when they were growing up

      importance of keeping family and social life tied together to the best one can.

    6. My group at Janelia has never been larger than five postdocs, and has averaged three

      Small labs can be fun and focused to work with too!

    7. Everywhere I've been, I've been able to focus 100% on my work - I've never written a grant in my life. I doubt I would have been as successful in a more traditional academic career path.

      Not getting a grant is not the end of the world. Though important to be hard-working and focused on the question that is most compeling and where one has domain expertise or someting that can be gained on short-term (months and not years) basis.

    8. That brought me back full circle to the optical lattice theory I had published in 2005.

      Not loosing the insight gained from the previous domain expertise

    9. The field was getting crowded, and I've always found it most productive to go where the people aren't. It was time to do something new.

      Importance of knowing when field gets crowded, and much of crap supercede innovation in the field.

    10. Marty had told Gerry that I was interested in that "biological Bell Labs," HHMI's new Janelia Farm Research Campus. The campus wasn't built yet, but I was invited to interview in a little building off site in August, and was on the payroll in October 2005.

      All set for HHMI yet-to-be built Janelia campus, and finally back to the labs!

    11. By early 2006, we had 20 nanometer resolution images of actin filaments, focal adhesions, mitochondria, and lysosomes. We submitted the work to Science in March, and it was published that August, after a lengthy fight with a reviewer who demanded correlative EM data, and then pushed for rejection even after we supplied it.

      Efforts paid off ~46 years of age and been unemployed or so called non-standard career spanning a decade or more!

      PS: Ignore comments of the third reviewer :-)

    12. Harald and I built the first PALM microscope in his living room in La Jolla (Figure 6). We were both unemployed, but Harald had some of his equipment from Bell. We pulled that out of storage, and each put in $25,000 to cover everything else we needed. We worked hard, and in September shipped all the parts to rebuild the microscope in the darkroom of Jennifer's lab at the NIH. The first time we put a cover slip coated with molecules into the microscope and turned on the photoactivating light, the first subset popped up and we knew we had it.

      Unemployed for a decent time but had savings!

    13. Harald and I didn't know any biology, so we needed help.

      Reaching out to experts where you do not have deeper domain knowledge

    14. Mike had one of the biggest libraries of fluorescent protein fusions in the world, and that's where we learned about photoactivatable fluorescent proteins. In the Tallahassee airport on our way home, it became obvious to Harald and me that this was the missing link for the idea that I had pitched after I left Bell

      Importance of networking and collaborations

    15. He invited me to present the idea to the biology department there in April 2005. Marty Chalfie was one of my hosts during that visit, and he turned to me in the cab on the way to dinner and said, "It sounds like you really believe in this idea. How are you going to get back in the lab?" I said, "I have no idea, but I read in Physics Today that there's a guy named Gerry Rubin who wants to make a biological Bell Labs," and we left it at that.

      year 2005 (age 45): firm idea that works but finding a lab where he can work on this idea

    16. you know something so well that you love it and hate it and it's part of you. Within three months, I grokked diffraction and light and formation of foci.

      tenacity and perseverance

    17. I wanted to take advantage of GFP to do live cell imaging, but my physics knowledge had atrophied. So I pulled out my old textbooks and started redoing old homework problems. I was really motivated to understand it this time around, because I figured this was my last chance to make a scientific career.

      never late to study and learn a new skill

    18. I started reading the scientific literature again, and quickly came across Marty Chalfie's paper on green fluorescent protein, which he had published in 1994 as I was leaving Bell. It was like a religious revelation to me.

      Importance of staying up with litreature, especially across different but related fields.

    19. I reconnected with Harald, who had also gone into industry in San Diego, but wasn't completely satisfied.

      getting back with the old and trusted friend

    20. So in 2002 I quit. That was probably the hardest part of my life. I had pissed away my academic career and I had pissed away my backup plan of working for my Dad. Once again, I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do. Fortunately, with money in the bank, I had some time to think of a solution.

      Quit again in 2002 from industry on the top of dried up previous academic ties.

    21. Michigan in 1997 and set down roots

      joined Dad's company in 1997: spent significant amount of money over research project (FAST) which earned hardly anything in revenues.

    22. When Kriya was three, and started speaking with a Jersey accent, I knew we had to get out of New Jersey.

      :-) wonder which Jersey accent: the original or one with the Indian flavour!

    23. During my third year, I stopped just trying one thing after another, and started thinking like a physicist about why things weren't working.

      important to look at the question from different perspective, and reevaluate the failing experiments

    24. Two years in, I wrote in my self-evaluation that if I didn't have a breakthrough in the next year, they wouldn't need to fire me because I would quit.

      setbacks with new project

    25. I knew next to nothing about semiconductor physics, but Horst thought near-field was a really cool idea and it could go places. He wanted to hire me, even though what I was doing was completely outside of what everyone else in the department was doing. Except for one guy - Harald Hess, who I also met during that visit. Harald had built a low temperature scanning tunneling microscope to study superconductors, and he and I hit it off immediately.

      new domain; joint work with Harald Hess

    26. I built this crazy, elaborate, expensive microscope that kind of worked (Figure 2). I never looked at much beyond test patterns, but it was enough to prove that the idea was valid.

      phd thesis ~1988