In Plain English: Meng Chen

Meng Chen got his job by accident; that is, he accidentally discovered a mutant while he was a post-doc, and now his lab is defining a new area in the study of light signal transduction.  The pre-Socratic philosophers first observed how plants turn and grow towards light; now we know that light is the master switch that turns on or off a full third of the plant genome.  Proteins sense the color, intensity, direction and duration of light and send signals down the pathway. Eventually the signals turn on genes causing the plant to respond by changing its shape, flowering, and so on.  Scientists thought they had mapped the entire pathway but Meng's blind mutant lacks an essential component, still unknown. 

But that accident that started it all--how did that happen?  Meng admits that he is a very messy person.  His postdoctoral colleagues actually took a photo of his supremely messy bench, framed it and added their good wishes for his future at Duke.  Perhaps being messy leads to more accident-al discoveries, in which case we should all emulate Meng.