• Question: What's the most successful experiment you've ever had?

    Asked by anon-258641 on 13 Jul 2020.
    • Photo: Tiffany Chan

      Tiffany Chan answered on 13 Jul 2020:

      Hi Ace! Difficult question to answer… I’m not sure I know the answer! Near the end of my PhD, we started to collect some data showing that some of the compounds that I made to tackle Alzheimer’s disease might be working in the way we hoped, which was cool!

    • Photo: Mark Kent

      Mark Kent answered on 14 Jul 2020:

      This is a difficult question, as I would say normally each experiment I do only offers a small piece of the puzzle, so you have to look at the bigger picture to draw significant conclusions. That said, I once did an experiment while I was a PhD student where I was following the progress of a reaction through NMR (which you may have heard of – its a powerful technique for a chemist as it looks at the chemical environment of specific elements). In the experiment I ran a sample every 4 hours for 24 hours (including through the night when I set my alarm to go to the lab to run the sample). It was pretty tiring but the data I got was great.

    • Photo: Sebastian Cosgrove

      Sebastian Cosgrove answered on 14 Jul 2020:

      Hi there. It is hard to say that really, as success can depends on several things. We can measure the success by looking at what we got from the results – did we publish some scientific papers, or did it lead to grant funding so we can carry on doing more experiments? That I suppose is academic success. But personal success could be coming up with a prediction (or hypothesis) yourself, designing experiments to test that hypothesis and then finding out it is true. These kind of experiments feel like the most successful as you have followed an idea from your head all the way through to the lab, then got the results.
      I suppose my most successful experiment was more the second kind of success with a bit of the first thrown in. I had an idea of a way to make a chemical reaction better using some new reactor technology and when we did the experiment in the lab and it worked really well, which I classed as a success. We then used the results of that experiment to do more research and it has lead to some new projects in my research group, around ways to improve chemical reactions with new technologies.
      It is all about perspective when it comes to success in science – I think just getting into a lab and testing your ideas should be counted as a success as well because you have been able to think up a set of experiments, even if they don’t work out how they thought you would. You have still learnt something new!

    • Photo: Katherine Haxton

      Katherine Haxton answered on 14 Jul 2020:

      I’ve had quite a lot of successful experiments, ones where I’ve designed an experiment to test a hypothesis or measure something specific and it has worked. For me, success is defined as something going as planned without making any daft mistakes.

    • Photo: Daniel Jones

      Daniel Jones answered on 14 Jul 2020: last edited 14 Jul 2020 1:14 pm

      I think there’s this perception that one great experiment will tell you everything you need to know. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true. One experiment will give just one snippet of information. “Success” often just means “I have learnt something about this compound/system/whatever” and that’s enough! In my line of work (quality control), I sometimes do a test and hope that NOTHING happens at all – that can be a success to!

    • Photo: Aisling Ryan

      Aisling Ryan answered on 14 Jul 2020:

      Ohh, this is a tough question! Mostly because lots of the experiments are different so it’s hard to compare them and choose one that is most successful. My work involves making medicines to treat different types of cancers, with a focus on stopping them from spreading and from coming back after they have already been treated. I think for me, the experiment that stand out is one of my projects I am working on at the moment. The project is working really. I have made four different medicines that are killing the cells really effectively and also stopping the cells from moving, which is something they do to form a new tumour in the body. I have had lots of unsuccessful experiments and still am struggling with other projects, so when one set of experiments work well it is very exciting and uplifting 🙂