All Work and No Play

These days, I find myself providing strange and quirky examples to elucidate certain concepts in molecular biology to a classroom of 50 sleep-induced, hungover and relatively withdrawn young minds.

"Imagine you want to murder someone.. and you want to do it with a knife. Why a knife? Well, because knives are slow and painful and you can see the fear in your enemy's eyes as life slowly drains away.." (Here I paused, to give theatrics a chance) "..but then I go and hide all your knives away! You come into the room to face the person you want to kill. But suddenly you can't kill him - or her, not to sound sexist - because I took away the only weapon you ever had!" I paused, to let them try to figure it out a little by themselves before I give away the final conclusion of the elaborate example - "that's what EDTA does. It takes away the cation cofactors that the nuclease needs, in order to cleave the DNA. Get it? Get it?"

Sometimes, I believe, I'm being a little too hopeful while I teach. Not too different than the girl who walks in every single class, with her first few questions being "How long is this lab?" "Do we have to stay the whole while?" and "I have this party at my sorority after.." and that's when I phase out, like clockwork. Another one of my students, after listening to the whole example with rapt attention, raised his hand. He was now wide awake and was not doing a good job of hiding that sense of obvious alarm off his face.

"Can we not kill with guns?"
"No" said I, "Haven't you watched Dark Knight?"
"What? Why?" he persisted with his line of enquiry.
"Because they aren't cool.. And you HAVEN'T watched The Dark Knight??!"
"Umm.. I just think you have a wacky sense of humor.."
I squinted, and changed the topic quickly.