It's time for #DarwinsBalls - Brackets for a good reason

(by gerty-z) Mar 16 2015

UPDATE #2: YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!!! All but one of the original projects I put up have been completed!!! I'm adding a couple more projects, just in case there are any late-comers. Scoring is progressive (you get more points for later rounds) so there is still a chance!!


 

UPDATE: Three of the projects on the original list have been completed!! YOU GUYS ROCK. As of now, there are 49 folks signed up. But there is still time! I know the games to figure out the last 4 games have already started, but those barely count. The For Realz games don't start until Thursday (I think). There is still time to get in on the fun!! OH - and use this link to sign up (thanks @namaste_ish): http://dballs4science.mayhem.cbssports.com/brackets. If that doesn't work, send me a gmail @ primaryinvestigator or else DM me on twitter @gertyz


Hey all! It's March, and that means College Basketball! Around here, there is a tradition of hosting a bracket competition -- for a good cause, of course. This year, there was an idea to have folks contribute to Smart Girls at the Party - Amy Poehler's community to encourage girls and women to be themselves and change the world. It is pretty awesome, IMO. Sadly, I can't find a link that we could use for donations. It is very confusing. So instead I went over to Donor's Choose and picked some great projects that we could support. If you aren't familiar with Donor's Choose, then I just can't even. JOKING! It is an exceptionally good charity where teachers can ask for money to get stuff they need for teaching.

So here's the deal. If you wanna play, you gotta pay. Go to Donor's Choose and put down your entry fee ($10, students and postdocs can enter for $5). Then go to dballs4science.mayhem.cbssports.com and fill out a bracket. The group name is Darwin's Balls, the password is MarieCurie. Then let the trash-talking begin!! Also, @Namaste_Ish has arranged for some excellent prizes for the winners. Fun trash talking AND prizes!!

You can donate to any project at Donor's Choose that you want. Or pick one from the list that I put together trying to find "less urban", high poverty projects:

Centered in Learning ~ Mrs. Cabrera's class at Bell Elementary School in Deming, NM. "My students need language arts and mathematics center activities to focus on practicing and strengthening their skills." This is basic stuff: Math flash cards, reading folders, white board markers. Let's get these kids going!!!

NEW! 2nd Annual Science Fair ~ Mrs. Sutton's class at Shady Spring Elementary School in Shady Spring, WV is looking for supplies so they can have a science fair.

NEW! Dissecting for Degrees! ~ Ms. Dugger's class at Woodward Elementary School in Atlanta, GA. Help a class of 5th graders get the opportunity to do frog dissections!

COMPLETED!! Send the FeMale Robotics team to space! ~ Ms. Madanski's class at Robinson Elementary School in Toledo, OH. "We are a group of ten 4th-8th grade inner-city girls who work hard, have fun, and are learning to build and program a robot. You can help us prepare for our first LEGO League competition next year by obtaining a Space Challenge Set to practice in the off season!"

COMPLETED!! Make Math Come Alive ~ Mrs. Mastin's class at Tilles Elementary School in Fort Smith, AR. "This project will provide my students with the opportunity to have a hands on experience with math concepts across the curriculum and make it more applicable to my students. They will be able to visualize and understand the concepts behind math strategies and think critically about those strategies. By using these materials, I will be able to provide instruction to my students that they will never forget."

COMPLETED!! Helping All Students Succeed Mathematically ~ Ms. McClelland's class at Oakland Heights Elementary School in Meridian, MS. "By funding our project, you will make it possible for my female students to improve their attitudes about mathematics by getting some much needed practice. I feel that the girls will build their confidence and esteem as they learning to enjoy math. Please help us succeed at learning."

COMPLETED!! Supplies are Running Out...Help ~ Ms. P.'s supplies project  at Longfellow Elementary School in Pasco,  WA. "This project will make a huge difference in our classroom by providing my students with essential items that they need every day. Without basic items like paper, and dry-erase markers my students will not be able to accomplish their learning targets." Holy crap, this is heartbreaking. They are running out of paper, ffs -gz

COMPLETED!! Multiplying the Love for Math and Science ~ Ms. Thompson's class at McClure Elementary School in Tulsa, OK. "With these materials, my students will conduct experiments, engage in hands-on learning activities, and take part in a more meaningful learning experience. I believe that this will allow them to retain information they learn, long-term and apply the skills they are learning to everyday life."

SPORTSBALL! Do something good, maybe win a prize based on randomly choosing your bracket! It is All. The. Awesome.

Now get on it, folks.

48 responses so far

AMAZING on-the-ground reporting from Alabama

(by gerty-z) Feb 11 2015

Ran across the BEST ever reporting piece about how Alabama is dealing with newly-legalized "gay" marriage. This dude is Da Bom.

Sadly, I can't figure out how to embed the video. So click here. I promise it is totally worth clicking!

One response so far

Guest post: Not oblivious

(by gerty-z) Jan 30 2015

Hello old friends - I am kicking the dust off this blog after what has been way too long. I know that we have a lot of catching up to do, but right now there is something important I need to talk about. I don't think that you could miss it, but this week two former Vanderbilt football players were convicted of brutally raping a young woman. Of course they took some videos and passed them around to their friends. And of course, they were convinced up to the last minute that they would "beat" the charges. Because ... they play football?? ... they were too drunk to know what they were doing? (BARF!). I can't express how very angry and gut-wrenching I find this entire situation. There is so much fucked up here, I just can't even go through it all.
In the aftermath of the conviction, the Chancellor of Vanderbilt posted a statement about the situation. It includes lots of words about how this "isn't part of the culture here" and "this stuff is at all colleges" and blah blah blah when is this all going to go away?
Others at Vanderbilt are having a different reaction. Below is a message that I got from Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin (@McLNeuro), a faculty member at Vanderbilt's Medical school. She has agreed to let me post it here for you
From Dr. McLaughlin:
I am not oblivious.
The New York Times claims today that Vanderbilt is oblivious to the horrific violent rape of a neuroscience undergraduate student by 4 former football players. I have many neuroscience undergraduates in my lab. I am not oblivious. I I am angry. I am embarassed. And I am crushed to my core.
I am keenly aware through the outstanding work of Kate Clancy and Hope Jahren that women face horrible violence everyday throughout the world. And I would like to think that my daughter will never have to face harassment or violence because she is female. As a mother I want to believe that putting Amelia in the best schools provides extra levels of protection for her when I am not there.
Statistics speak of a different reality - one that doesn't care how high you have moved up the ranks in academia.  This is heartbreaking and we must do better. I must do better for my students and we all must do better for women and girls in our country and throughout the world.
Friends who are professors, please talk to your graduate students and post docs about how you trust them to talk to you and will have their back. Most graduate students interact with undergrads every day. They need to know caring is part of our culture and more important than any experiment . Bring in HR to help you if you need to...that's what they are there for.
Parents, believing that being in a good school or around well educated men means your children are safe is something you do at your peril. This is not a safe world for women. Catcalls, harassment, violence, discrimination, pay inequality are all very real.
I don't have all the answers but I'm deeply committed to doing better for all the amazing women I have had the priveledge of mentoring. But please, don't believe the The New York Times when they say Vanderbilt University doesn't care.  I care.

No responses yet

Guest post by @MyTChondria: Getting on with some help from friends #ThxSTEMMen

(by gerty-z) Jul 20 2014

This last week was a real shit-show in so many ways. I was especially hit hard by a series of events that highlighted the sexism in my corner of the STEM world. First, @kateclancy published a study in PLoS ONE about how many young women were sexually harassed or assaulted doing fieldwork, then a $20 million suit was filed against Vanderbilt that accused a professor of such horrible behavior that it makes me want to puke. Finally, Science magazine published a ridiculous cover image of head-less trans women, and a white d00d editor went to twitter to defend it and made it a million times more horrible. Ugh. I don't really know what to say/do. But lucky for me (and you, really), @MyTChondria sent me this guest post. I like the idea of recognizing our allies in this fight. Enjoy.

----------------------------------

By MyTChondria:

This month has has been brutal for many people in STEM, particularly women.  Stunning Supreme Court rulings pulled our reproductive rights away bit by bit. This last week the horrors hit close to our jobs as allegations of horrific acts of sexual harassment against trainees, publication of data of the startling numbers of female field scientists who have been harassed and assaulted on work sites, and blundering non-pologies of Science as they depersonalized the tragedy of transgender sex workers.

I’m exhausted by the fact Henry Gee still works at Nature, that we live in a society where males sing Robin Thicke lyrics about ‘you know you want it’ and every part of #YesAllWomen resonates with me.

Men came by my office making light of these events. When I told them I was sad and these things hurt me and my friends, they squirmed but didn’t listen. They were either convinced simply bringing these things to light would help or that people were making mountains out of mole hills.

Figure 1: Nearly entirely accurate portrayal of me by Wednesday last week

Figure 1: Nearly entirely accurate portrayal of me by Wednesday last week

It was all I could do to keep from crying. And I don’t fuckken cry. This was the first week I really seriously considered leaving science. I thought I couldn’t look at my graduate students and fellows (all of whom are women) and tell them STEM is a healthy field. I’m not depressed, I’m sad.  And it crystalized as @MGHydro tweeted exasperation that nothing seemed to be changing.  Were we just documenting history or actually going to do something about it?

Friday night I huddled up with Mini ate some pizza and watched The Butler (she is obsessed with history and social justice). She watched the movie intently while white actors sat by blacks actors graphically reenacted the violence students were subjected to at Civil rights protests. I paused to see if it was too much for her and asked her why she thought the white students sat taking this abuse with their black friends. The real life photos of their injuries were horrific.

With the confidence that only a 10 year old can have, she said “Of course they had to sit there with them. You can’t live in a world where people you know aren’t being treated fairly by bullies. Even if it means you have to get beat up along side your friends. It's the right thing to do”.  With the help of wine and a nice fleece blanket, I thought about this over the next few hours, and found myself with a foothold to help me face next week with a sense of hope.

Many of my male Tweeps have called out sexism, thought deeply and fought hard for gender equality. They give me hope I’m not insane and alone. They help me believe there is not some fundamental and insurmountable difference in how men think women. I appreciate their voices cheering for me me when I’m doing the right thing even if I want to puke while it’s happening. I delight in these men who have the wherewithal to tell sexist men to STFU in their blogs, tweets and IRL.

I have no cookies to give. I’m not that kind of person.  I also know would stab me if it looked like I was doing it (they would also stab a dude, so I feel okay with this).  For all these things I am grateful.

Many of my female friends have similar stories of men who kicked other dudes in social media who impress and encourage them. So, I invite my female tweeps to share the hashtag #ThxSTEMMen with the names of a man or men who have helped you in your gender equality struggles.

@SciTriGrrl will Storify it and we can hopefully connect up other women with the merry band of misfits who champion women’s rights.

 

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FUCK CANCER World Cup Pool

(by gerty-z) Jun 17 2014

It's back: filling out brackets because Fuck Cancer, courtesy of the ever-chipper Bam D. Woodchipper, @Bam294. You may remember the March Madness challenge that Bam coordinated in memory of her friend Chris Maki. So many of you all stepped up, filled out some brackets, and made a difference for his family. Because you are all AWESOME! But enough flattery.

There's MORE to be done, folks. This year, Chris's wife is participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer to benefit Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center. Coincidentally there is also a sporting competition going on! Bam had a super idea - a World Cup pool to raise money for Jill's ride!!

Here's how it works: go to Jill's donation page and give $5 (you can give anonymously). Then go sign up for the pool and pick who you think will win in each of the group games. I know they have already started, but we'll just pick up from here. After group play, go back and fill out the bracket for the knockout round. You get 1 pt for each game you pick during group play, 2 pt for round of 16, 3 pt for round of 8, 4 pt for semifinals, and 5 pt for picking the champion. The winners will get bragging rights (of course) and some amazing home-baked cookies made special for you by the most-awesome Sugar Scientist. Who knows what other delightful rewards might show up?

You can't win if you don't play!

 

3 responses so far

Of course there is bias in peer review, jackass!

(by gerty-z) Jun 08 2014

So the NIH has decided they want to try to minimize the effect of bias in peer review. That doesn't sound like a shitty idea, right? No. But apparently a lot of jag-offs couldn't stop themselves from starting in on the comments section. Many were "insulted" that anyone would accuse them of bias. Or wanted to make sure everyone knew that the only real bias was the kind that ended up tanking their proposals. Sigh. I don't even know how this could be a thing. Peer review is done by humans. Human are biased because of their previous experiences and their interactions with the culture and society in which they live. You don't have to be a fucking psychologist/sociologist to know this. You just have to have a few working neurons that can fire coherently and generate thoughts. Seriously, if this is hard for you then you DEFINITELY need to head over to DrugMonkey's blog to read the guest post by MyTChondria (who has a shit-ton of very active and coherent neurons, ftr).

I just have a couple things to add to some of the commenters over at Rock Talk. Beyond the obvious "pull your heads our of your assess, people!", of course that is addressed so well by MyTChondria.
1. If reviewers are repeatedly making "factual errors" when they review your grant, you might want to reconsider how you are writing your grant. Sure, reviewers will make mistakes (they are human, remember?). But it is a hell of a lot easier for a reviewer to be confused if you writing is jumbled, rambly, or incoherent.
2. There are not enough people with more than 3 R01 that limiting the number of awards would make a big difference. And if someone is smart enough and has enough ideas and resources to manage more than 3 grants, then why would we discourage them? There are a lot of places where it takes 2 R01 equivalents to run a minimal lab (soft money positions in particular). I know DrugMonkey has gotten into this before (for example, here).
3. Full-time reviewers. Seriously?!?!??! Who would take this job? No doubt they would never make mistakes. I assume that no one will be complaining about these "professional reviewers", same as everyone loves the non-academic journal editors. Can't have it both way, folks.

I just can't even understand how so many "scientists" can get their collective undergarments so twisted up over this topic. Come on folks. We're better than this.

12 responses so far

Actual emails in my inbox

(by gerty-z) May 13 2014

This, folks, is what makes me want to delete my entire inbox.

subject: Dr. Z(urgent)-regard to peptide synthesis

Dear Dr. Z,

    Greetings from Wuzheng, Wish you have a nice day.
I have sent several emails to you before, I think you might be busy, so do not reply me.

    Please excuse me to take the liberty of writing to you again that we pay much attention to cooperate with you, If you need peptides in your research, you could try to compare(price, quality,service and delivery time) us with your supplier,

---
there may have been more. I had to quit reading  because it was making me want to lash out at other humans without any sort of specificity. 2 min of my life I can never get  back.

5 responses so far

What happens when you send @McLNeuro an email...

(by gerty-z) Apr 03 2014

The other day, a friend of the blog, @McLNeuro got an email from a sales rep. Some might just delete the email and go about their day. Lucky for this rep (and us!), that is not how Dr. McLaughlin chose to proceed...

On Mar 28, 2014, at 7:13 am, Dr. McLaughlin wrote:

Answers below

On Mar 28, 2014, at 5:46 AM, Karen [redacted] wrote:
Dear Dr. McLaughlinYou have one of the greatest lab websites I have ever seen!   Looks like a great place to work

Its not. I’m a monster.

I am reaching out to you in hopes that I could ask you a few questions around your previous purchase of Choline acetyltransferase antibody from [redacted].  Even if you don’t really remember your interaction with us, that’s fine.  I’m looking for any data I can get. I chose to contact you specifically because our records show that you purchased from us one time, but have not purchased since then and I really want to know why.The questions I have are basically:

(1)    How did you find the antibody that you bought from us (if you don’t remember, how do you generally find them)?

I tell people to get things and they do it. So we needed to look at ACh levels so that was the antibody the labbie picked. If its published, they go there first. If not they look at specificity.

(2)    Did everything you ordered arrive on time?

If it doesn’t, I yell at them about why the experiment didn’t happen, so probably

(3)    Did it perform as expected?

The graduate student? No. They are in someone else’s lab now. Also the antibody sucked.

(4)    Was there anything you couldn’t find or you wished was available?

An American public that appreciated that funding biomedical research was in their best interest and valued education as a means of societal advancement. Also, a loyal army of monkeys to do my bidding.

(5)    Why did you stop purchasing from [redacted]?

Did I mention the crappy antibody?

(6)    What would bring you back?

Trials of antibodies. Cookies. Wine. Nice pens. Sometimes the pens don’t even have to be that nice to make people in the lab buy reagents, to be honest.

If you’d write me back to share your comments I would really appreciate it.  I would be happy to send you a $5 Starbucks gift card if you respond.  If you’d prefer to call and talk instead I’ve left my work number and personal cell phone number below.  You can call me or email to set up a time to chat.

I didn’t have time to call, but did jot your cell number in a bathroom stall an told people you’d pay them $5 to call you. You’re welcome.

Thank you in advance for offering your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you.

I have other thoughts also available for smaller and greater amounts of money.

Best regards

Still?

Karen
[company information redacted]

2 responses so far

It's the march madness - play this year with #DarwinsBalls!!!

(by gerty-z) Mar 16 2014

Hey all, you may remember that Bam294 put together a March-Madness bracket shindig last year in memory of her friend who died of cancer. Since you all are awesome, we raised some money to help send his two daughters to college someday.

This year, MyTChondria had the fantastic idea of having a bracket tournament and raising some money to help with education - but this time we are going to raise money for Donor's Choose. I'm sure you all remember Donor's Choose from the annual blogger challenge, but if not you should definitely check it out. This is a super rad way to donate money so that teachers can get the basic supplies that they need to effectively teach kids.

This year, MyT has dubbed the bracket challenge Darwin's Balls (you can follow #darwinsballs on twitter). There will be trash talk to be done, bragging rights to be had. AND YOU CAN PLAY, TOO!! All you have to do is go HERE and fill out a bracket! You will probably have to register, but it is NBD (EDITED TO ADD: The group is DarwinsBalls, the password is Darwin). Then, after you have filled out your bracket(s), go and donate $5 go THIS awesome project for Ms. Alexander's class in Moss Point, MS. When we fund this project, the class will get to read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" and it Will Be Amazing (really, it's a great book!).

What the hell are you waiting for!! Let's get the DarwinsBalls party started!!

DAMN, guys! You rock! I've been told Ms. Alexander's project is FUNDED!! But don't sulk away because it turns out there is another high-poverty class that wants to learn about Henrietta Lacks. This is Ms. C's class in DC. Send your #DarwinsBalls $$ that way!

UPDATE AGAIN! You guys already finished off getting books for Ms. C's class. But don't worry, there's more. Our next goal is to get Mrs. Goude's class (another high-poverty area, this time outside of Nashville, TN) get some Frog Anatomy Dissecting kits. I did this when I was a kid and LOVED it. They are gonna be psyched!

UPDATE v. 3: OMG you guys are fucking amazing!! Mrs. Goude's project has been totally funded. NOW let's move on and help Mrs. Sand's 5th grade class in Chandler, AZ get the STEM learning kits they need!!

UPDATE v. 4: You guys. YOU GUYS!!! Holy crap you rock. Mrs. Sand's project is completed, so moving on to helping Mrs. Brown's class in Camden, NJ get their physics on!

UPDATE v. 5: DAMN! It's hard to keep up with you all!! Here is the next project, since Mrs. Brown's class is now set up. Let's bring home the Bacon (Francis Bacon) for Mr. Kovach's class in Chicago!

44 responses so far

So you wanna do a postdoc...

(by gerty-z) Feb 23 2014

In my part of the science world, it is very common to do some postdoctoral training. I'm not going to get into whether or not doing a postdoc is a good idea, nor debate whether there are too many PhD's or anything like that. For the purposes of this post, let's assume that you have considered options and have decided that you just can't leave the academic bench yet and that you want to do a postdoc. Now what? Applying for a postdoc is not as structured as applying to graduate school. And I'm sure that the process is different for different disciplines. In my world of the "basic" biomedical research, this is basically how it goes (YMMV, etc):

1. Pick out some potential postdoc mentors.
You need to start this about 12 months before you are defending. For realz. You need to give us PI's a chance to figure out if we have the money and space to add a member to the team. If you contact me and want to start next month you might get lucky - but if you give me some notice then I may be able to juggle things and make something work. Starting early has the added bonus that you can apply for fellowships early and often! woot! ;-)

There are a million ways to find labs in which you might want to postdoc. However, IME most labs don't advertise open postdoctoral positions. It's weird. We just sit there waiting for applicants. Maybe there is a announcement on our website (which may or may not be up-to-date :-/). Maybe. So don't be discouraged if a lab you are interested in doesn't seem to be looking for any new fellows. The right fit for you is going to depend on what, exactly you want to get out of your postdoctoral training. Want to learn a new technique? Move your research into a new field or subfield? Transition to industry? Get training in outreach/journalism/policy? Make a run at a tenure-track faculty position? Whatever it is, you need to identify the PI's that you think could help you advance your career.

After you generate a list of labs that you think would be a good fit for you, it is time to start vetting. Figure out how previous postdocs in the lab have done - are they in the kinds of jobs that you would like to have? Talk to people your advisor and anyone else that you trust. Ask them about the folks on your list. Do folks working in the same sub-sub-field think particularly highly of anyone on your list? Does anyone have a reputation of being difficult to work with, or unfair? Gather all the information that you can. Then pare down the list to something manageable. You should try to settle on a final list of 3-5, at most.    

2. Prepare your application.
Ok, there isn't really an application. Just a letter that you are going to send to PI's to tell them you are interested in working with them. More importantly, to convince them that THEY should be interested in having you as a postdoc. This is the key. What can you bring to the group? You don't need to go on about what you did as a grad student (that is why you are enclosing your CV!). Basically, I want to be able to quickly figure out the general area of your graduate research, including whose lab you are in, and approximately when you would want to join my lab. I also like to see some indication of WHY you picked my lab. Finally, explain to me what YOU bring to the table that should make me want to recruit you. How would you make my group better?  Put your letter in front of anyone that will read it. Constructive feedback is your friend. Also, you really don't want to have a typo in your letter.

3. Update your CV.
Your curriculum vitae - you life's work. If this is a mess, I assume you are a mess. Don't be a mess. Your CV should highlight your achievements. Organize it so that you put your best foot forward. There is no standard format for a CV, so you have some flexibility here. You should lead with your name, contact info, education, and research experience. After that the order depends on what job you are applying for. If you want to work in my lab, the next thing I want to see is publications and research funding you have been awarded. I don't need to see a list of research techniques, or a list of all the computer programs you know how to use (and please, please don't tell me how you are proficient in Word. please). If you have special skills, make sure that is obvious. If you are really good with Python or R, I should know that looking at your CV. List things in reverse-chronological order so that your most recent achievements (which are probably the most relevant) are at the top of the list.

The post-doc application CV is the only time I think it is OK to include manuscripts that are "in preparation". There are some projects that work out so that all the publications happen at the end, and you might not have them out when you are applying for postdocs. That can be OK. But DON'T list anything that isn't actually in preparation. If I ask your advisor about an "in prep" manuscript and they don't know what the hell I'm talking about that is bad.

I strongly encourage everyone to always keep the CV up to date. I have a "long-form" CV in my dropbox that I update anytime anything happens. It has EVERYTHING on it. When I need to send a CV for something I simply save this under a new name and cut out the parts that I don't need. Easy peasy.

4. Contact potential postdoc advisors.
Go time! Send an email to the potential postdoc advisor that includes your letter (in the body of the email), CV (attached as a PDF), and a list of references with contact information (can be included in CV or attached as a PDF). Now you just have to wait (sorry!). If you are writing to me you will probably wait longer if there is an approaching NIH grant deadline. If you haven't heard back in 2 weeks, you should follow up with another email asking if there is any other information that they would like to see. If you still hear nothing, then move on to someone else on the list.

And just like that, you too can be a post-doc! Good luck :-)

6 responses so far

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