Cramming in the name of science

About a year ago, I participated in a workshop, part of annual educational series called Microfluidics Regenerated: New Approaches, Applications, and Enabling Technologies. It was an excellent forum designed by BioDot to enhance learning about, and in some cases practice, nascent and existing technologies for designing new devices. The 2.5 day workshop included all meals allowing ample time to socialize with the people behind the knowledge and the audience.

All of the presentations were thought provoking – one that was out of the box was by Dr. Robert Hnasko, a scientist at the Berkeley, CA UDSA.   He presented a method for rapid detection of toxins in microfluidic assays and blew many of us away with his rapid fire presentation backed by data and more data.

A few weeks after the event, he contacted me as recognized that plasma surface modification was an enabler for modification of substrates used in assays (such as ELISA and Western Blot).   He was just wrapping up a book for the Methods in Molecular Biology series and asked if I would consider writing a plasma tutorial chapter.   Of course, I said yes as glimmered by the idea of contributing to this technical resource book.  I figured that it couldn’t be much more time consuming and difficult than writing a technical paper for a conference.  Knowing that I couldn’t do it alone, I pinged my colleague Khoren Sahagian with a proposal.   Khoren had been a writing partner for several years — in fact, our first meeting was to discuss a collaborative research program that led to a poster presentation and his eventual hire at Plasmatreat (my former employer).    He said yes as quickly as I said yes to Dr. Hnasko.   A lunch meeting ensued with Robert where he presented the form factor, allowed us to talk about our ideas, and provided excellent guidance.   We talked a bit about the corn and greenhouses in sight of Buchanan…that I’ve been driving past for two decades plus.

Dr. Hnasko then SET A DEADLINE.

The evil deadline.

The one that sounds super reasonable at that time.

The one that you add to your calendar with reminders.

The one that sits in that special part of your brain where it is always present, in view, but not front and center.

You trust that it will move to the front and center location at the appropriate time. Well it didn’t. It stayed in that peripheral region out of the light.   That deadline came and went and we didn’t have much to show (other than an awesome outline with enough sections and levels for a stand-alone tome on plasma).   Our consuming work responsibilities and deadlines got in the way.


That slipped (however the outline became realistic and manageable).   Khoren and I tried to keep each other honest but there just wasn’t time in the day.


Again, we didn’t have time in the day so the creative late night college cram process began!   Khoren would write from after dinner until 2 maybe 3 in the morning and I’d wake up at 4 to pick up where he left off before headed into the office. After a few weeks of this…at last we had a solid draft to present.

Well, one year later and I’m proud to say that the book is on the shelves (digital and physical). Order your book or chapter now at: Methods in Molecular Biology:  ELISA Methods and Protocols

Oh, haven’t had to cram like that since.