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Hercules (or Herakles) was ridiculously strong. So strong, in fact, that as a baby he strangled poisonous snakes that were sent to kill him.   He then went on to complete the 12 labors—which included defeating a nine-headed hydra, wrestling a lion, driving away a flock of man-eating birds, and capturing a deer with golden horns and bronze hooves. Pretty. Legendary. Stuff.

What could this possible have to do with being a postdoc? Next to nothing, in fact! Except it seems highly doubtful that there was ever a hydra, or man-eating birds, or a magical deer. Maybe there was a lion, but did someone named Hercules ever wrestle it? Or maybe he just happened to see one once, and told all his friends how cool it was.

Ever hear of the postdoc who ran ten 384-well plate ELISAs all at the same time? Or who stripped and reprobed a western blot with 50 different antibodies? Or who pcr-amplified, digested, ligated, and then grew up and sequenced a whole new plasmid all in one day? Well, maybe not exactly. But I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon that when a tech, or grad student, or postdoc leaves the lab, they occasionally reach “legendary” status and are remembered (and spoken of) for having performed incredible feats of science during their time in the lab.

I like to consider how I can reach such a level—the postdoc who rode into lab on a unicorn every morning, with a flask full of rainbows, and who’s every experiment she touched magically worked and turned to gold. And who had perfect hair.


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