We're a little crazy, about science!

Thoughts from the Lab

Smile for the camera

Today is photo day! What is photo day you may ask? Well it’s the day we take pictures. Okay, probably a little brief, today is the day that we’re meeting with the lab and school public relations team to release a joint statement about our new award. It’s the first award for our new collaborator (surgical-PI, who I still need to find a better pseudonym for) since he just started his new lab at the hospital at the beginning of the year. While it’s not a major award (dollar amount), we tend to celebrate these things anyway, so we’re taking pictures together, surgical-PI is getting a tour of the school lab, and we’re going to get interviewed about the details of the project.

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Why is it always a rush?

Well my latest grant is due at the end of the week, so I am now just a few short days away from the deadline and rushing to meet it. There has been plenty of time between when the proposal for funding went out and now, so why does it always feel like things are last minute? It probably has to do with the iterative approach to writing and the edits that go on forever. Since I need a break from scientific writing I figure now would be a good time to talk about the process and why a far off deadline is never enough.

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Conferences in a pandemic

I’m vaccinated, I got vaccinated back before most of the public could because I work and do research at a hospital. Because I work with a vulnerable population, some of whom cannot be vaccinated, I still take the pandemic very seriously. I wear my mask like I wear any other piece of clothing and the hospital understands this risk because unlike schools and other places in the area, masks are still mandatory. It’s not just a vaccination issue, it’s that vaccines are 100% effective and not everyone can be vaccinated or has access to get vaccinated. So when my favorite conference came around, I was torn about attending… was.

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The game plan

A pirate's treasure map
A pirate's treasure map.

Well I’ve got two days (not counting today) to get so much stuff done I don’t even know where to start. The good news is I’m feeling slightly better about my odds. The bad news is nothing is done so there’s nothing to celebrate just yet. I have a plan though and I feel good about the way I laid out my work, if I’m careful (and lucky) I’ll be able to get it all done. We’ll see, it’s going to be tough, but today let’s cover why I plan my work when I get swamped like this and how you can do it too.

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On the prefrontal cortex and abuse

Adulthood is often thought of as the point where you’re done developing. Most states for example don’t allow anyone under 21 to drink because that was where we drew the line, but we allow people as young as 18 (here in the US) to join the military, vote, etc. You may think that this would be roughly where we stop developing and that would explain the somewhat artificial line we’ve drawn. The truth is much stranger than that and when it comes to the brain you don’t develop evenly.

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A week in review

I figure it’s a good time for the recap of the week. I mean there was a lot going on and while I want to spend some more time on my “in statistics” series, I also really need a break. So instead of spending a lot of time making sure the information I’m presenting is accurate, concise(ish), and (with luck) well thought out, I figure it would be easier to talk about the things I’ve had to do this week and the things I get to look forward to! Joy, welcome to life as a PhD candidate.

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Clinical research in a pandemic

Male and female characters scientists or lab attendants working in science laboratory using microscope, lab glassware, vector flat illustration. Scientific research, experiment, science and education.

One of the more interesting things about the pandemic is that everything at the university level shut down. They still send out emails suggesting that everyone wants to go back to in person classes, but they haven’t followed through with that threat. Human participant research has been halted and even though we’re probably going back to “normal” in the fall, right now nothing is happening. That’s at the university level though, clinical research is a different story.

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Another approaching deadline!

Well it’s going to be down to the wire this week. It’s good to know we’re keeping the theme, if you’ve been following along for awhile you already know it’s always down to the wire. This week is particularly challenging because I have competing interests for the time I have. There’s only 24 hours in a day, so there’s only so much work that can get done. I would prefer to not do it at the last minute, but here we are… again.

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The lonely cultist

Listen closely as I am going to divulge a secret from the universe. It will be so earth shattering that you will forever remember this movement. There will be an irrevocable before and after. It has taken me decades to uncover this secret and as the sole owner and guardian of it, I am trusting part of it to you. You can be a part of something larger than yourself, find secret truths, and if you are ready to receive them, find your own. There are secrets in this life hidden just beyond human sight and they are waiting for you to find them. They are calling out to you in the wind. Do you hear them? Are you ready?

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Great expectations

What did you want to be when you grew up? Sometimes the question ends in hilarity, a dinosaur, a unicorn, or maybe some other type of animal. Sometimes it leads to dreams of a sci-fi future, deep space traveller, Mars colonist, maybe a superhero. Whatever the answer is, they all have something in common. No one dreams of being average, but the average exists because so many people fall into it. Most of us have our dreams die as the reality of our existence becomes clear. I say fuck that, dream big until your last breath, why not?

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Full speed ahead

Neither rain, nor sleat, nor pandemic, nor freezing to death stop us from moving forward. I think that’s how the PhD motto goes anyway. Since the past week we’ve been struggling to simply live, we’ve had the whole city sort of on pause. That pause has come to an end, there is no recovery period here, it’s straight back to work. That’s a feature of capitalism, not a bug and it isn’t limited to getting a PhD, but we’re definitely included in the back to work group.

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On the stories we tell

It’s been a busy week, there was so much to do that I was worried it wasn’t going to all get done, but here we are! Things got done, mental health was prioritized, and I figure it’s a good time to talk about words. Or rather the stories they form, it’s a complex topic and this is really more for me than anything, a friendly reminder that I really enjoy writing. After all, while this blog is meant to help others, it’s also a message in a bottle to my future self, a reminder that I was really here and actually did the work. An ever growing time capsule of my thoughts if you will.

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The road to a PhD program

In hindsight this post should’ve happened a long time ago, like year one and day one of my 365 days of academia project. Things have… evolved in ways I didn’t understand when I started this, originally the project was simply going to be a notebook for my classes, then it turned into my journey as a whole, and even what I do in my spare time. Like anything we create it took on a life of its own and I’m reminded I should touch on the process to getting accepted into a PhD program.

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Scientific figure design

Well I’ve done it… sort of. I edited the grant for the semi-last time. Now we’ve got a working copy that reads the way we want it to read, so it’s off to the scientific writer to read over it and make sure it sounds good. You would think that means my work is done, but no. I need to do arguably the hardest part and create some of the figures we will use in the paper. Writing well takes practice, but making a good figure, well that’s art.

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Not cool Robert Frost!

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” starts Frost in a poem that most people are at least familiar with, but typically is misnamed. The poem is typically identified as, “The Road Less Traveled”. This makes sense because the poem talks about the thought process behind why he chose the road less traveled and that it was worth it. That’s not the name of the poem though.

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New year, new grant

It’s all connected somehow… I just know it.

Nope, still on vacation… I tell myself as I make arrangements to meet with my Co-PI. This is important though and unlike some of the other projects it has a firm deadline. That’s right, I’m writing a grant. No this isn’t an update to the last one I wrote, this is a whole new one. How did I end up in this position? Who knows, but I’ve been trying to figure it out since it happened. Let’s discuss, shall we?

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A look forward

It’s a new year, a new chapter, and it’s time to set some new goals. What kinds of craziness will I accomplish this year? Well I have a few ideas. No pressure or anything, I don’t want to force myself to fit things into the year just because I planned for it. Instead I like to set goals so I can check things off a list (I do love my lists). So even if that list rolls into the next year, it’s not the end of the world. Just a helpful hint for those of us who are chronically anxious!

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A year in review

So long 2020, while the calendar is a human construct, I hope that the significance means something for mankind as a whole. Who knows maybe we will finally take the pandemic seriously, or global warming, maybe even gun violence. Yeah, I don’t think so either, but one can hope. In lieu of stating my hopes for humanity, let’s just take a quick look back at the year I’ve had and what this new year holds. This is my year in review.

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The perils of publishing

So you want to publish some science. I don’t blame you, as a scientist we’re driven by the “publish or perish” mindset. The further along you get the more you’re stuck having weird nightmares about h-index and impact factor. Or maybe that’s just me, who knows? In any case, any publication is a labor of love, one that typically turns into a labor of spite. Because publishing isn’t easy, or maybe that’s just me.

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And finally something good…

I don’t know why my mind went with hidden treasure, but that’s what we’re going with today.

It was bound to happen eventually, some good news for today! I had a meeting with my Co-PI and we went over the latest findings in the dataset I’m processing for my “super secret” technique and I have to say it went much better than was expected! He’s excited, I’m excited, we’re excited. The issue is we don’t know what any of it means, but I think that’s why it’s so exciting!!!!

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The power of indifference an open letter to the scientific community

indifference

Suddenly your absent-minded thoughts are shattered by a loud noise. Quickly you look around, to the left of you, you see it, and a child has been shot, you see them bleeding heavily. People are standing around with their phones, some calling emergency services, some filming, but most looking confused and scared. No one is actively trying to help; you hear that they are afraid that the person, or persons, who shot the child is still around. What do you do next, do you choose indifference, or do you help?

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Trumped: Why the election is a symptom of a bigger problem

Donald trump hands

Donald trump hands

Right now you are probably thinking that I am going to unleash some poorly thought out diatribe about president elect Trump. No, that is not going to happen. It is not going to happen because he is not the problem, you are the problem, I am the problem, and we are the problem. That goes for those of you who are atheists, Catholics, Muslims, conservatives and liberals, or anything in-between.

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Mental illness, that’s a funny term isn’t it?

It's dangerous out there, take this.

It's dangerous out there, take this.

If you suffer from depression, PTSD, or anything else please visit: Take this

In today’s lexicon, the term mental illness is used pretty widely. It can be used to describe someone suffering from depression, to PTSD, to even someone suicidal. In fact, today it is sort of a catch all term for anyone who is involved in a mass shooting here in the US. We are getting off point however, why are we (myself included) labeled as mentally ill? You don’t call an amputee someone suffering from body illness, nor would you call someone with cancer “cellularly ill”.

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Matrix Unloaded: How you can fly a plane using expert-pilot brainwave patterns

download knowledge

download knowledge

“I know kung fu,” movie buffs might remember the remember the quote from “The Matrix.” We can all probably agree that being able to download knowledge “on tap” would be a boon to humanity. It is a shame it is just a movie… right? While that may be the case, it is just for now. That is because researchers have discovered that low-current electrical brain stimulation can modulate the learning of complex real-world skills.

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Technology and human biology: The singularity may not be so singular

future of humanity

future of humanity

Life literally inside the world wide web, it’s an interesting idea. One that has tantalized sci-fi fans since before the framework for the internet was even finished. While the idea of a seemingly eternal disembodied life through the unfiltered and raw computer consciousness that we all share a connection with, maybe we are shooting for a goal that isn’t really possible — maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

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Our pale blue dot in the wake of destruction

The pale blue dot we call home

The pale blue dot we call home

This is our home, that pale blue dot, dwarfed by an arrow that takes up less space on your screen than this sentence. For all our “overwhelming” intelligence, if we flexed our mental might and developed a weapon to destroy this pale blue dot, it would almost certainly go unnoticed in the universe.

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Scientists create worlds first genetically modified human embryos

CRISPR-Cas9

A funny thing happened on the way to the publisher. In a world first, China has successfully created genetically modified human embryos. It was certainly an amazing piece of science, but the paper was rejected by both Nature and Science. Not because the study was flawed, or because the data was falsified, the paper was rejected for ethical reasons.

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Who’s Leonard Nimoy?

Star trek

“I’m having a crappy day and to top it off Leonard Nimoy died today.” I told my friends as I was getting into the car after a particularly challenging day. No, I was not a huge trekkie growing up, but I did have a lot of respect for Leonard Nimoy and for Spock, the character that seemingly only he could bring to life. Truthfully, Spock and I had a lot in common, we were both mixed and neither one of us had an easier time for it. I typically don’t share my personal story here at the Labs, but I thought I would make an acception.

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Alternatives to antibiotics in an antibiotic resistant world

antibiotic resistance

super bugs

Let’s be honest, we’ve been getting a little fancy with the antibiotics, creating new and more relevant versions of old favorites like penicillin. Truthfully, we are the problem, how many times do we have to drive home the idea that antibiotics are for bacteria, not viruses. It is not all the consumers fault, the Doctors used to hand out antibiotics to placate angry parents of sick children.

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Hyper sleep- A “down to earth” space story

hyper sleep

It was every kids’ dream to go into space, not understanding the perils or the boredom that comes with it. The idea of floating weightless and “boldly going where no man has gone before” permeated the imagination as nothing had ever done before. Space, why did there have to be so much of it?

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The Love Song of Philo T. Farnsworth

Philo Farnsworth, if the name sounds vaguely familiar than you might just be a Futurama watcher. If you don’t watch and know who I’m talking about or even better are a fan then, “YAY!” and for those of you who don’t know, don’t sweat it you’re not alone. One of the forgotten greats, Farnsworth should be a household name, namely because one of his biggest inventions is in practically every home.

Did you guess it yet? If you said Television, then you are correct!! [If you didn’t, but wish you had, then good enough!] Philo Farnsworth wasn’t necessarily a genius, he didn’t escape the holocaust like Einstein, nor did he make millions from his inventions like you might expect. In fact, Farnsworth lead– by all accounts — a fairly unassuming life. Interesting when find out that not only did he invent the modern television, but he did it at the ripe old age of 14 years old. No, not 41 that wasn’t a mistype, he was 14 years old.

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In Science We Trust

in science we trust

Sure, I could do a poll right now, how many of you are science fans? I figure if you are reading my blog then the answer is most [if not all] of you are. Unfortunately, that result isn’t the norm. Whether you blame it on lack of education, or just simply because it is “cool” to be ignorant; science is most definitely not as mainstream as it could be.

Why do more people know about the latest celebrity gossip, than the latest scientific advancements is beyond me. Sometimes it feels like pseudoscience has more of a following than actual science. Frustrating when I see my insurance covers things like acupuncture –which does not work– but not root canals — which do, in fact, serve a purpose.

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Land of the Free, Home of the Afraid?

smartphone science

Let’s take a Loony quiz! Do you believe any of these statements are true? Global warming isn’t real. GMO food is the devil. Organic and all natural are better. Science is just a belief like religion. Evolution is just a theory, so other theories should be taught along side. Vaccines do — or can– cause serious health concerns. If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from a lack of scientific understanding, but don’t worry you’re not alone.

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Is that Good Science? A Guide to Cutting through BS

WeirdScience

Part of getting an education isn’t about learning what to think, it is about learning how to find good information. When it comes to scientific literature [especially on-line], it’s hard to separate the good from the bad if you don’t know what to look for. With the emergence of pseudoscience in the mainstream I think it’s important to go over a few red flags when it comes to claims being made.

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5 Reasons Why Science is Losing the War

Science is losing an unseen war and like any war it isn’t without its casualties. The true body count won’t be evident, not at first. This isn’t a war over land, or freedoms, it is a war on ignorance, a fight for the future. Science has brought us a level of comfort and connectivity we have never really seen. Unfortunately that connectivity is being used against us, allowing people with dubious motives to shout from the rooftops bold faced lies and a call for people to follow.

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Gender Bias: 178 girls still missing for going to school

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Roughly two weeks ago [April 16th] about 240 girls were abducted from a school in north-eastern Nigeria. From reports the scene played out like something from a B list movie, six flatbed trucks roll up to a school, armed men storm the building, and just like that, they were taken. Unfortunately Liam Neeson won’t be saving the day.

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What do those words really mean?

organic_produce

Certified by whom?

Organic, all natural, chemical free, theory, toxins, all words that get tossed around a whole lot for sure, especially in advertising. But do you really know what these words actually mean? More importantly is that source giving you a definition a reliable one– probably not.

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Dear Science, I’m so sorry…

child-scientists

Dear America,

It’s a sad fact that being intelligent is now the “uncool” thing to do. Wanting to participate in learning and actually knowing how the world works can mean being bullied or worse. The backlash of this movement [I assumed] would be felt strongly starting with my generation [as an 80’s child]. I was unfortunately incorrect with this assumption, maybe it started a lot earlier. (more…)