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The Boston Globe


Science in Mind

What does science smell like? Dry-erase markers

Most people associate science with technical equipment: goggles, lasers, microscopes, or knee-length lab coats. For me, science really can’t be done without a far more basic piece of equipment: the dry-erase marker.

Practically every time I visit a laboratory or scientist’s office, I see a white board filled with diagrams and sketches. In the sleekest new biomedical research buildings, scientists’ scribbling is so in-your-face that whole walls are covered with ideas born and then erased. Eric Lander, the founding director of the Broad Institute, once told me that the floor-to-ceiling write-on walls at the Broad were inspired by an experience earlier in his career when he began explaining an idea at a meeting. In his enthusiasm to get his point across, he began sketching directly on the wall.

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