Monday, February 18, 2008

Nicest Guy in Science

When I was growing up (hell, even now), I always heard scary stories about evil arrogant scientists. Megalomaniacs with fancy degrees from Ivy League schools (or somewhere European) with publications in Nature and Science who demand anyone 'lower' than them grovel at their feet.

If anyone Ive met in science-world could have fit this description, it should have been Hung Fan. Graduate of MIT, worked at the Salk Institute, co-author on a paper with David Baltimore, a gazillion dollars in grant money, head honcho over at UC Irvine... He should have been one of those Arrogant Scientists.


Dr. Fan is one of the *nicest* individuals I have ever met. Wow. I mean, Im sure you all will be shocked to hear this, but Im *kinda* contrary in the lab, and especially with visiting virologists. So I tried to pick a fight with Dr. Fan over David Baltimores recent comments-- Uh uh. We had a wonderful conversation on the topic. He told me about virology-world before/during the discovery of HIV, some insight on Baltimores project and personality, and he was so encouraging about my research.

So I tried to pick a fight with him over Louis Villarreal**, as Dr. Fan has also co-authored a paper with him. Dr. Fan had lovely things to say about Dr. Villarreal and about viral evolution!

Okay, now, seriously-- Im really combative about ideas, and I kept pushing on various topics the entire day. He never got worked up or short with me, and he always just had the most insightful, and above all, encouraging comments!

He didnt tell me to go kill myself once!!

As he was leaving this evening (he stayed late to talk to a few of us longer, again, NICE!!), I asked him what his advice would be to a first year grad student studying virology. "To quit while you can and go to medical school?" I laughed.

"No! Enjoy yourself! Make sure you love to come into work every day! Make sure you love doing the experiments even when they dont work! But make sure you love your research!" he said cheerfully.

I looked at Bossman and we both ROFL. Today was a good day :)

** More on him later!! Dr. Villarreal is also a really friggen nice guy, at least through email, but I havent met him :P You know, my only encounters with Arrogant Asshole Scientists have been with Creationist 'scientists'... hmmm?


Ian said...

Oh, the arrogant asshole scientists are the creationists, most of them are compensating for their own insecurities. On the other hand, some of the nicest, most down-to-earth people are the ones sleeping with their undergrads.

Art said...

Hung Fan sounds like a fine fellow, and you tested him severely. I can visualize this. LMAO here.

-- HalfMooner

Reynold said...

It could be should try meeting Johnathon Sarfati sometime...

I remember that he even lipped off to the mods at Theology Web.

Since one has to be signed on to see this post, I'll just place it here. The last statement is Sarfati's:

Originally posted by DDW
And I agree with you Jaltus. I am exhausted right now from the house and could not think of the right words. Retarded seemed appropriate, but not quite the word I was looking for.

Originally posted by yxboom
You could leave that up to me

Of course, it's unbecoming to insult your intellectual superiors in that way, esp. one who trounced all three of you put together in the Alumnus of the Year election.

TX Skeptic said...

When I had the honor of working at the NIH in the late 80's, I found exactly what Ian said. The top scientists I met were by far the nicest people. But the ones who were assholes were the ones who felt they had to prove themselves all the time.

On the other hand, when it came to critiquing someone's research presentation, s/he had better be prepared because they were taking no prisoners.....But, hey, that's why I love Science!

Great Blog!