Scientists are used to spending a long time working on their publications. But for years, computational biologist Pardis Sabeti’s laboratory at Harvard University has also devoted extracurricular energy to a very different kind of publication — a holiday card that has become more elaborate and epic with each passing year.
The first card I received from the lab was delightfully tongue in cheek — a recreation of the Renaissance painting, “The School of Athens.” Last year, the laboratory upped the ante with scenes from the popular “Gangnam Style” video by South Korean rapper Psy. The dance moves, costumes, and layout were all elaborate, and I assumed — naively — that perhaps the tradition had reached its peak.
I was wrong. This year, Sabeti’s “Saturday Night Live”-themed card features scientists in some of the show’s most famous skits and two celebrity guest stars: Chris Martin, from the band Coldplay, and SNL’s Seth Meyers.
Sabeti said she had been invited to an event for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. She knew that comedian Tina Fey was performing, and she had become interested in doing an “Anchorman 2”-themed holiday card. So she brought a lab T-shirt in the hopes she could persuade Fey to put it on and take a quick photo.
She didn’t manage to catch Fey, but Sabeti spotted Meyers and Martin standing nearby and asked them whether they’d mind wearing the shirts.
“Since it was only a small shirt Seth wore it as a scarf and Chris held it,” Sabeti wrote in an e-mail. “I was overwhelmed by how sweetly they responded to what we were doing, and how they wanted to learn more about my lab and support” it.
Normally, Sabeti’s laboratory focuses on serious research, but I’ve always found it delightful that the lab brings big ambitions to something as offbeat as a holiday card, too.