For a long time a big goal of mine has been to move a particular gene into a particular strain of bacteria. This was really difficult and I kept getting stuck on different parts, always one step forward two steps back! But eventually, after much struggle, I finally got the gene into the bacteria and that was probably one of the happiest days ever for me! Sad but true!
Good question: I once did an experiment to test the diet of freshwater crabs in a Kenyan rainforest. Because there are not that many insects in the rivers over there, the mystery was what exactly was eating all the leaves that fall into the rivers (also knowns as detritivores). I used “stable isotopes” to test whether the crabs were eating these leaves. Isotopes are versions of common atoms like carbon and nitrogen but with extra neutrons in their nucleus. They can be tracked through nature because their weight is slightly different. I found that the crabs were actually eating these leaves because the amount of these atoms in the leaves was the same as in the crabs bodies!
My research does not involve directly experiment, as Sheldon Cooper in big bang theory, I do theoretical physics. So my job is to think about new phenomena, new theories and propose new experiments. In this sense, one of my first work was verified experimentally in a group in Switzerland. This was very important for me, as it proved that my calculations were correct.
Hmmm my most successful experiment.. well a lot of my research is observational and comparative – I observe animals in their habitats, watch their behaviour (like how they feed and fight and where they live..), and eventually make up theories about how these animals interact with each other and their environment. So I don’t have a successful experiment but I ve made some important (and very cool) discoveries! I ve discovered two deep-sea coral reefs (one in France and one near Northern Ireland), one endoparasitic copepod (a parasite that infests some of my sea urchins) which I got to name! and described a new sea urchin behaviour – they eat the coral in deep environments – pesky little things 😉 Great question Ryan 🙂