Sydney Brenner was a part of "the founding fathers of molecular biology" in Cambridge’s Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Laboratory for Molecular Biology (LMB) in the 1950-60s, together with among others Francis Crick (DNA-helix and concepts of genetic information transfer) and Fred Sanger (DNA-sequencing). Brenner established C. elegans as an organism for studying genetics, and did important findings regarding RNA.
In this highly readable interview by Elizabeth Dzeng, Brenner speaks about the atmosphere that sparked the early and revolutionary findings of molecular biology. He also reasons about why life science today makes such an innovative and creative atmosphere harder to create.
This taps into my previous blog-post about creativity and science. I do not think there is a magic bullet for creating environments like the LMB in the 1950's. But there are factors that can push a research field in one or another direction.
- Enabling creativity and freedom instead of a highly competetive and normatively narrow field, is a place to start.
- Working on how university campuses, undergraduate and graduate programs are organized, is another.
- Discussing what science is and should be, is a third.
- Training researchers and funders to acctually take risk is a fourth.