Failure and error: Mojtaba Pourbahai

Failed experiment, rejected article: in science it is quickly called a failure. And talking about it? I do not think so. Colleagues do that in this department. Because failure is useful. This time, Mojtaba Pourbahai, a researcher in cell biology and immunity.

“Over the course of more than three years of my PhD, one method kept failing, but I persevered. I had written my own proposal, so I was determined to implement it. I wanted to know if cow’s milk could support children’s immune systems. I used antibodies Antibodies to cow's milk that bind to antigens of RSV, a virus that causes respiratory illness in children. Together, the antibody and antigen form an immune complex that must be recognized by immune cells. I wanted to detect these structures using flow cytometry, a method of counting and analyzing cells and particles Using laser. But the process depends on many factors, such as concentrations, acidity, temperature and incubation time. For a long time I could not find anything.

My supervisor encouraged me; He thought it could be done. But after three years, he himself became convinced that it wouldn't work. He wanted to abandon the idea, but I continued. I spent a lot of time on it, and it had to work. I set myself a goal: If I don't succeed in the next three months, I will give up. Then I will do everything I can during those three months. Instead of one test, I took three tests a week. In each attempt I changed a factor and became a step better. I told myself, there's a chance this won't work out, but if I keep doing it, there's an increasing chance it will work out.

Now I know that making mistakes is part of science, but it's never easy to accept that

I discussed the results with my supervisor and he gave me advice. Little by little I improved the test. In the end it worked. For three years, the process seemed like a failure, but now I know that making mistakes is part of science, but it's never easy to accept that. The main thing is perseverance, as well as luck and advice from colleagues. Keep trying until you get it right.

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Megan Vasquez

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