Archive for: June, 2012

One week left to submit to DiS PRIDE carnival!

Jun 21 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Friendly reminder that the deadline for the Diversity in Science PRIDE carnival is in ONE WEEK! You can read the announcement post for more details. Submit your blog post here. If you don't have a blog, but would like to contribute then email me (primaryinvestigator[at]gmail[dot]com). I have really enjoyed reading the submissions so far, so keep them coming!

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search term fun time

Jun 19 2012 Published by under hilarity

I am working on Part 3 of Gerty goes to study section. But in the mean time, I was amused by how some of you are finding your way here. These are the top search terms that led to this blog, according to my WordPress stats page:

"big fuck" this is the most common search term. I assume that you were looking for something kind of different, but welcome!

"grad student nothing to do between exper" I am thinking that ended with "experiments". Well, grad student. My mom always used to say "If you are bored, I can find something for you to do!" You could be doing some reading. Or catch up your lab notebook. Clean up your bench. Just some ideas.

"fabric poster for conference" They are awesome

"what you should be learning in your post" I'll guess this ended with "post-doc". I have written a post about being a new postdoc. But in the long-term, you should be learning what you need for the next stage in your career. And developing a Plan B (and maybe C) for if that scenario doesn't work out. I hope that you found something useful here! If not, drop me a comment/email about what you were looking for. I'm always looking for blog inspiration.

"i don't like my postdoc" sorry. Maybe you should consider moving on?

"women of lbeby free". huh. were you looking for this?

"run4p" and "running challenge".  Welcome runners! Hope you are having fun and enjoying the daily workout 🙂

"no, but really," Yes. This.

"fuck bigers" I don't even want to know.

If you are looking for something to do, also please consider contributing to the Diversity in Science Carnival: PRIDE edition! We've already seen some good entries, from an anonymous ally and BabyAttachMode. I would love to have you all join in 😀

5 responses so far

Pride Carnival: from an ally

Jun 15 2012 Published by under queer, Uncategorized

This is an anonymous submission for the DiS Pride carnival that I got by email. I thought it was great, so I got permission to post it here in its entirety. Yay for everyone that helps advance queer advocacy!


I am an Ally. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when or where I reached full-on Ally Status (I'm card carrying, in case you are wondering) but as I sit here today, I'm proud to be out. Maybe it was my hairdresser in high school. Maybe it was my youth director at Church (when I still was a Christian). Maybe it was my office mate in grad school. Maybe it was lab mate who never actually came out because he was uncomfortable with others knowing such an intimate part of his life (in fact the only conversation we ever had about it went like this: me: You could have told me. him: I didn't want to.  And then we went back to drinking beer and it NEVER came up again. Nor did this conversation come up with anyone else-well, until now). Maybe it's the undergrad, whose hand I held, as he cried when his mother did not take the news that he was gay very well. Maybe it was my husband's mentor in college (aka the strongest woman that I have ever met). Maybe it was my great aunt who never felt like she could come out because Southern ladies don't do that. Maybe it was my cousin who came out in her 50's (her dad was a Southern Baptist preacher!). Most likely it's a collection of all these experiences.

So what does it mean to be an Ally? In every day life? It means on a committee when someone says, 'but our state doesn't recognize gay marriage', you say, 'it doesn't matter, they are committed to each other and it's irrelevant to this decision'. It means that when I teach bacterially transmitted infections that I point out which diseases are found in LGBT populations, so our future MDs know what to look for and which questions to ask their patients. It means voting against those who want to discriminate against LGBT folks. It means acting respectfully. It means being that ear or hand holder for that student that wants to honest with everyone about who he or she is.

Most importantly, it means not treating anyone as if they are different or special. Unless you are an actual sex worker, who you have sex with and/or who you fall in love with is wildly irrelevant to the rest of your life. Moreover, it is what it is. I don't hetero walk down the hallway or hetero start my car or hetero parent or hetero write a grant or hetero listen to music (I might hetero dress, but that's a topic for another day)...I can't imagine that a gay version of myself would suddenly have a different walk....just, perhaps, a different gender of partner to walk through life with.

4 responses so far

Gerty goes to study section, part 2

Jun 14 2012 Published by under academia, grants, on the job training

In this installment, I'm going to talk about what I did BEFORE I even got to study section. Obviously, everything I say (ever) is specific to my own experience. YMMV, etc. If you want to read about how I ended up as an ECR, see part 1.

After I was invited to study section, the real work started. I had to actually review grants! As an ECR (what a convenient acronym!), I had a reduced load. I only had to review about 30% as many grants as the "real" members of study section. At NIH, grants all get reviewed by 3-4 different people, who are cleverly named the "primary", "secondary", "third" and "fourth" reviewer*.  All reviewers that were new to this study section had an "official" training conference call with the SRO to make sure we were all on the same page. We talked about the focus of the study section, the scoring protocol, different grant mechanisms, and how to deal with ESI/NI applications (there was no difference in these two categories, as far as I could tell). We also all filled out the conflict-of-interest form. The NIH had identified folks you may have a conflict with (you work at same institution, have recently collaborated, etc), but you are expected to note any others that may be perceived as a COI.

Then, the scoring. NIH grants are scored for five criteria: Significance, Approach, Innovation, Investigator, and Environment. You can tell they are important because they are always written as proper nouns. Each criteria gets scored on a scale of 1-9 (PDF of scale),  1 is "exceptional", 9 is "poor". And then you list bullet points of strengths and weaknesses - that should justify the score you gave, of course! If you list a lot of weaknesses it will be hard to defend a "3", for example. In order to prevent score compression, you are encouraged to consider a 5 as average. We were all told that if we score something better or worse than 5 we should be able to justify why. In addition to the criterion scores, each grant gets an overall Impact score. The impact score is the Big Deal. There is no formula that derives the Impact score from the criterion scores. Instead, you have to decide what are the most important aspects of the application (both plus and minus). Then you decide what the potential for the proposed research to have a long-lasting and significant effect on the field is. This is the Impact score. Different factors contribute to the Impact score for each application. Some get lifted by the Approach, others by the Significance, and some by Investigator. At least one reviewer writes a paragraph explaining the Impact score that they assigned, so that the grant writer knows what was driving the score.

The point of the ECR program, at least in part, is to groom us young-uns to be good reviewers. Therefore, even though I was third reviewer for all of my grants, I did a full write up for all of them, including paragraph justifying my Impact score. I was expected to have mine done well before everyone else, so that the SRO could look at them. I was NOT given any direction on what to say, but ze looked at my reviews to give me feedback on whether the comments I made were consistent with the scores I was giving, and if I was going into enough/too much detail in each section. I actually found this really, really helpful. I have no personal experience with the new scoring system. The last NIH grant I wrote (my K99/R00) was still from the 25-page format and old scoring procedure.

It was surprisingly hard to give out bad scores! But I do what I gotta do. For each of my grants, I did some literature searches and read up so that I had an understanding of the field. Obviously, all of the grants were in my Field, but some were outside of my own sub-field expertise. This was important to help me figure out what the "impact" of the research might be [HINT: spell out what the "impact" will be when you are writing a grant!!!!] In addition to "my" grants, I read the Aims page of all the grants we would be reviewing (THIS IS WHY YOUR AIMS PAGE IS SO IMPORTANT). Then there were a couple other grants that I read because they sounded interesting, were by folks I knew, or were somewhat related to what I did.

A week or so before the meeting, final reviews are due. After all the reviews are in, you can see what the other reviewers thought of all the grants (except those you have a conflict with). I was Freaking EcstaticTM when my scores were - more or less - in line with what others had to say about the grants. It was also interesting to see what others picked up on, or missed. And it was REALLY interesting how different factors were weighted to come up with the Impact score for each grant. Sometimes, the Approach was the most important thing, other times the Investigator score  was really important, etc. But...these are the preliminary scores! Everything can change at the meeting.... stay tuned for part 3.

(How am I doing with the cliff-hanger here?)


*Don't ask me, I don't make the rules. Maybe, "tertiary" and "quarternary" are hard to say.

13 responses so far

Announcing Diversity in Science Carnival: PRIDE EDITION!

Jun 13 2012 Published by under queer

From Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that June is the official Pride Month? Well, it is!  Pride is a time to increase the visibility of our LGBT/queer community. It is also a time for everyone to take a stand against discrimination and violence against anyone based on their sexual orientation (or perceived sexual orientation).



This year, I have the great honor of hosting the Diversity in Science Carnival for Pride. Last year, Jeremy over at Denim and Tweed did a fantastic job of highlighting some of the awesome queer scientists out there. I have some big shoes to fill! This year, I want to focus on queer advocacy. There are a lot of queer issues that have been in the news recently. We have seen the demise of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and a federal judge ruled DOMA unconstitutional. Vice President Biden and then President Obama voiced support for marriage equality, and the NAACP followed. But there have been setbacks, too. The North Carolina constitution was amended by a majority vote. Now, in North Carolina the constitution not only rules out same-sex couples from being married but it also prevents civil recognition for any "domestic legal union". Not only will the Democratic National Convention be in North Carolina this year, but our very own Science Online UnConference is hosted there. This is just one example of an issue that impacts my life, every day. I can't legally marry my wife and this has all sorts of consequences.

So I hereby invite you, YES YOU, to join in the Pride Carnival this year. Whether you are one of us queer scientists, an active ally, or a person who realizes that they have queer friends and/or family members that they care about. What does queer advocacy mean to you? What works? How do these issues change your life as a scientist? Submit you entries for the carnival here. If you blog, write a post and submit the link. If you don't blog you can leave a message on the form or drop me an email primaryinvestigator[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll make sure your input is included (if you email I will assume you want to post anonymously unless you state otherwise).

Deadline is June 25, so let's get going!



8 responses so far

Gerty goes to study section, part 1

Jun 12 2012 Published by under academia, grants, on the job training

Things have been pretty crazy, tweeps. I have some good news and some bad news.

First, the bad news: my first grant got triaged 🙁 I am now waiting to get the reviewer comments, and then I will talk to my PO and evaluate whether it is worth resubmitting as an A1 (chance of going from triage -> funded very, very low). Alternatively, I might re-work this application so much that it will go back as a new A0. We shall see.

Second, the good news: I didn't get fired! Woo Hoo 🙂 I got an official letter from the dean saying that I have been reappointed for the second three-year term. At the end of which I must be promoted to Associate with tenure or...not.

But in the last week I have also had the chance to sit on a real-live NIH study section. And I learned SO MUCH. And I want to share my new-found knowledge with YOU, of course. PLS had a great post from when he was on an NSF review panel, so hopefully my experience on this NIH study section will also be useful. Therefore, consider the rest of this post the first installment of the new series "Gerty goes to study section".

I sat on study section as an Early Career Reviewer (ECR*). This is a relatively new program to get young-uns involved in peer review so we will be better peer-reviewers and better grant writers. You can apply to be an ECR (there is an email link at the page linked above), but that is not how I stumbled into this gig. I actually ended up chatting with the SRO of a study section after giving a talk at a society meeting a couple of years ago. We were talking about the new ECR program, and I mentioned that it was something I would really like to volunteer for. Then a few months ago, I got an email from SRO asking if I would join in! Of course I said yes. And that, friends, is how I ended up on study section.


*because, right, that needs it's own acronym. Sigh.

18 responses so far

i think i pulled a muscle...

Jun 07 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Guys. You guys. Study section is Hard. Really hard. On the first day, we spent over 9 hours reviewing grants. There was 35 min for lunch, two short coffee breaks. My brain hurts. Also, I think I pulled a hamstring. I have no idea how that happened.

I am learning SO MUCH. We have had some contentious debates about applications, and some where everyone agrees. But it is certainly intense. Also, the grant I just submitted is toast. I can already see how it will get skewered I guess that is part of the reason I'm doing this, though.

But seriously. Whoa.

6 responses so far