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Content: Sneaky Scientist

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Last week, I introduced the My Princeton Summer series! In short, an adventurous friend talked me into joining a writers’ group during a summer spent in Princeton, NJ, and we had so much fun with it.

You’ll quickly learn what I mean when I said we had a lot of fun with it. As mentioned in the aforementioned post, a lot of the writings from that group were time-limited and prompt-based, resulting (for me at least) in poorly-written but hilarious outcomes. The following is definitely not my best work, but the group found it funny, my friend and I found it funny, and I hope you find it funny too!

As a disclaimer, I was spending 10-12 hours in lab many days that summer, which meant my brain was eating, drinking, and sleeping science. That may or may not have affected some of my prompt responses . . . including this one. Honestly, I forget what the prompt for this even was, and I didn’t write it down as part of my response. It had something to do with a museum. But, anyway, without further adieu, I present a 10-minute free-write that I’ll call “Sneaky Scientist.”

“And on your left, you’ll see a replica—in larger-than-life, 300x size—the first model of DNA proposed by Watson and Crick!”

The third graders all looked up toward the statue, gaping and gawking as I tried to suppress a yawn. These kids could in no way appreciate Watson and Crick. They’d likely never heard the names. They barely knew what DNA was, much less why such a simplistic model could be so important.

Simplistic. I let the corners of my mouth turn upward in a sly grin. The third graders certainly couldn’t appreciate why this model was now so “simplistic,” but who could blame them. The vast majority of society wasn’t aware of the millions of other molecules—the histones, the methyl groups, the acetyl tags, the transcription machinery—that gave that model the importance that it had.

But that was why I was here.

The only way I’d managed to sneak past the security clearance of this nobody museum in this small town was to volunteer with this field trip. True, I had connections. I had enough connections to get me placed into the presence of thirty five fidgeting,  name-calling, naïve little third graders. But I didn’t have enough connections to get into the room I so powerfully sought to enter.

The tour group rounded the corner, and I paused by the statue of the double helix. “So simple,” I muttered. Just like the material I’d come here to collect. And the room I wanted to enter. I had never seen it, only heard rumors. But if a scientist such as myself couldn’t crack the code necessary to find where they kept the elusive item, then who could?


That was it.

Slowly, I approached the massive statue of the double helix. I tilted my head to look up at its enormous size. It was here. Somewhere, it had to be here.

I began to examine the model, piece by piece. Maybe there was a trapdoor or something. But I finally felt one thing for sure. Only a scientist would be able to figure this out. That was a clue in and of itself.

At long last, I spotted it! Twisted into the inside of the helix—in a cytosine residue about twenty feet above my head—was a small trapdoor. My heart jumped. ‘C’ for Crick, I reasoned. But how would I get up there?

I was already drawing strange looks from security for my lingering around the massive exhibit. I had no machinery that I could use to scale the model—and even if I did, they would surely apprehend me. No. It was easier than that.  I had to think like a scientist.


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