The McKnight lab at UT Southwestern Medical Center studies a broad spectrum of biological phenomena by use of a combination of biochemical, genetic, biophysical, bioinformatic and molecular biological approaches. We are enamored of the beauty and simplicity of biological switches, and are largely unencumbered by either technical approach or biological system.
Our fundamental objective is to break new ground and study our systems no longer than what time is required to rigorously validate new discoveries. If a system offers vertically ascending challenges, we attempt to build on our own science and sustain focus. On the other hand, once a discovery has been rigorously established so as to create ripe opportunities for more horizontal productivity, it is our habit to leave this work to others who might be better prepared to articulate details and expand the discovery in directions better suited to their skills and knowledge base.
We love risk and are happy to publish our work at a pace no more aggressive than that required to both sustain funding and place our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in good jobs. The McKnight lab is composed of an equal distribution of trainees (graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and young physician scientists) and technicians. The lab typically consists of several graduate students, between two and four post-graduate trainees, and an equal number of skilled technicians. It is for several reasons that we rely on a strategy utilizing a higher than normal proportion of technicians. First, our technicians provide long-term stability with respect to technical competence. Second, our technicians are able to pursue high-risk scientific projects with almost no publication pressure. This balance helps create an atmosphere wherein graduate and post-graduate trainees are optimally poised to individually pursue challenging projects, sometimes emanating from observations made initially by the technical staff of the lab, yet invariably relying on access to substantive technical support.