Sunday, April 23, 2006

A vexing question of nomenclature

As I've said before, labeling is important when doing lab work. This is true not just for chemicals, but also for cells -- it's much more convenient to have a short label referring to a particular kind of cell than to always have to say "The cells containing genes X and Y, but without genes A and B ...". The convention [or maybe just -a- convention] in the field of yeast biology when naming cell lines [aka "strains"] created by a particular researcher is to give them a label of the form xxY.### where xx are the researcher's initials, 'Y' denotes the fact that it's a yeast strain and ### is some number, like 123. [Some might argue that this somewhat dry naming scheme, much like the very staid practice of naming yeast genes with a three-letter abbreviation supposed to encode something about their function, reflects the fact that yeast biologists just aren't as much fun as those wild and crazy Drosophila people. But I digress.]

This convention is at the heart of my problem: if I follow it, all my yeast strains will be called ... AMY.

the knee-jerk "Real Male Scientists (TM) don't create anything called 'Amy', they pick names like 'Crusher 11X' or 'BloodHammer 6' or 'RQZ2001.21' " reaction, this notion also disturbs me because I find myself coming up with anthropomorphic questions like:

- Am I creating a line of fembots, with model designations AMY001, AMY002 etc ? [Granted, they'll look much more like this than like that, but still ...]
- Will all the other AMYs be forever jealous of AMY001, because she was my first ?
- Will AMY007 be a yeast secret agent, mating somewhat indiscriminately and generally living a life of ill-repute ? On the plus side, that probably means she'll be impossible to kill ...
- Will AMY067 be a total b!tch, impossible to please, always dying or exhibiting weird behavior at the most incovenient times ?
- Will my cells, in general, be more fickle and inconstant than if they were called something more boring, like, say, RGY ?
- How will Christina take the news that I spend all my time at work with AMY ? Even worse, do I really want my son being told "Daddy can't spend any time with you right now because he's with that !@#$^$%@ AMY" ?

Some possible solutions I've come up with are:
- Buck the trend and put the 'Y' in front of my initials, so my strains will be called YAMxxx. Not great, but a little better.
- Use an initial from one of my middle names, which leads to the names KMYxxx or EMYxxx. Unfortunately, both of those still sound a lot like female names;
it's the "MY" part that's the problem and trading Amy for Kimmy or Emmy doesn't seem like a net win.
- Spell out the letters when talking about my strains ie refer to them as A-M-Y. The drawback here is that it doesn't work in print [and hopefully, at some point, something about my strains will be in print :-)]

... or I could just
accept that, in all likelihood, nobody other than me cares and resign myself to creating a numbered series of AMYs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could always go with last name first and may it MAY, or maybe reverse that and you could have yeastie YAM!

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Jonah said...

No, no, you'll not be creating tiny women. You'll be creating tiny Presidents of Hell, each commanding thirty-six legions of demons!

4:21 PM  
Blogger Corey said...

"Amy is depicted as a flaming fire, but will turn into a man after a time."

Not too shabby for a guy who teaches Astrology and liberal sciences.

I say run with it - you can always refer to this post if anyone gives you flack about your yeast. =)

10:30 AM  
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3:45 AM  

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