What’s a primer? Well, it really depends who you ask. If you ask someone who’s maybe a little more handy or artsy, a primer might be that first coat of paint that goes on before the real color does, either to help the color stick better or to prevent other things like rust from attaching on. If you ask someone who’s a little more mechanically oriented, a primer is a small pump or cap that brings in small amounts of fuel to the engine to get it started. A molecular biologist, like myself, might say that a primer is a small molecule (usually a pair of them) that helps start a polymerization reaction.
What these all have in common is that a primer is something that helps get things started; it provides the first bits of fuel or sets up the system so that it’s all ready to go. So for you, dear readers, a primer might be something that serves as an introduction to something scientific. Your brain is the system and I’m providing you that basic knowledge, the starting material, for you to build upon. In this ongoing series of posts (which will be tagged with ‘A Primer’), I’m going to be introducing the background reading, the basic material behind some very important concepts, methods, and procedures that will let you better understand what it is that biologists are doing. Stick around, read up, and let’s see what your mind is ready to do once it’s gotten primed up.