Groucho Marx, Cleopatra, and Thor. Such popular names from history and mythology often enter discussions in a gene lab, and usually not even during the coffee breaks. Though seemingly trivial, and unrelated to the business of genetics, these mythic monikers not only help postdoc trainees and their mentors weather long hours of workplace toil, but they also offer answers to a tall question: "So what do I name this gene?"

Mountains, machines, and maneuvers typically take their discoverers' surnames. But gene work is teamwork, and even the lowliest member helps decode. Thus handing out credit requires sharing the spotlight. Instead of squabbling for recognition, researchers may vie to supply comic relief.

A developmental genetics lab at the Skirbill Institute in New York University discovered a gene in which the RNA moves to the back of the cell. One researcher suggested naming the gene 'Rosa Parks' after the Civil Rights heroine...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?