Archive for: October, 2012

We did it!! YOU GUYS ROCK!

Oct 26 2012 Published by under awesomeness

You. Guys. Kick. Ass. The project that I picked out for National Chemistry week (Balanced Meals and Equations in the Chemistry Lab) is FUNDED! You guys are so awesome that it wasn't enough to finish that, though. We also completed "New Supplies for ¬†a Music Class". YAY!! ūüôā Seriously, we have already reached 451 students. Four. Hundred. Fifty. One. Holy crap.¬†Thank you to everyone that has donated to my giving page. Let's keep the momentum going, waddayasay? There are still a LOT of projects that are open, so if you haven't gotten around to it go over there now. One of my favorites is "Hatching Chickens". It is exactly what it sounds like! How awesome would it be to hatch some chickens? I wish I could have done this when I was a kid. I've also picked a few projects for the more pragmatic among us - classrooms that need basic supplies. Really, it is a travesty that teachers have to try to work without this stuff. So get over there and help some kids. For SCIENCE!!

The Heroes (you know you want to join this list!):
Jeremy Yoder
Janet Stemwedel
Julie M.
Olivia S.
Emily Hauser


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Best PSA ever. I LOVE these 7th graders

Oct 25 2012 Published by under awesomeness

I got a little teary watching this. How. Freaking. Amazing.

source (h/t to Rachel Maddow, who put this up on twitter).

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Happy CHEMISTRY week!

Oct 24 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I love chemistry. LOVE it. I am not yet super-villian level chemist, but that doesn't stop me from trying! We are now in the midst of National Chemistry Week (NCW), and to celebrate I would like to bring your attention to this awesome Donors Choose project:

Balanced Meals and Equations all in the Chemistry Kitchen!

Seriously. Food AND Chemistry?!?!!!! Can't get more awesome than that. This project, which is only $148 from completion, will help 5th graders learn practical applications of chemistry and nutrition. A win-win, if you ask me. So go over to my Giving Page and give a couple dollars. Let's finish off this project during NCW, and help these kids get their Chemistry on.

Thanks to BAM294 for the super generous donation! YOU ROCK

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Oct 21 2012 Published by under hilarity

I don't know how I've missed this until now. Go visit NOW. It has a series of videos that are hi-larious. For example:

Sarah Silverman is The Shit. And the Great Schlep = awesomesauce.

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Big Weekend!

Oct 20 2012 Published by under exhaustion, Uncategorized

Well, I survived the craziness that is SfN. It was my first time at that meeting, which is GIANT, because my work is only tangentially related to neuroscience (broadly speaking). It was a good meeting, even for how large it was. I had the chance to meet folks that work in my general field but that I don't run into at my normal meetings. And it was great to hear a new perspective on topics that I think about. And, of course, Dr. Becca and Neuropolarbear threw a Great Party (TM). And I got to pick the name of the person that won the Lexus*! In sum: great science and great friends. Yay!

I went to SfN directly from another conference, which was also extremely awesome. And really intense. I'm a little wrecked from the whole thing...I don't know if I will ever piggy-back meetings like that again. And now I'm back at home with a deadline for my next grant LOOMING (say it in a scary tone, cause that is how it is).

ANYWHO. While I was gone there was some important goings on. I'm really excited about these, even if I was only able to watch and not DO so much during the crazy time.

FIRST: Have I told you guys about #AlliesFTW? (spoiler-I totally have) This is a bloggy Q&A that Joe and I are hosting in an effort to figure out some things that we can do to be great allies for queer folk in academia. Leave a question or comment - in a few days we are going to gather everything up and see what is resonating. You can also leave questions or comments on twitter with the #AlliesFTW tag.

SECOND: You guys. It is Donor's Choose time again! I love love love Donor's Choose. This is our chance to come together and help out some kids so that they have a chance to see how awesome science can be! I've picked out some projects that I think are especially good, you can find them on my Giving Page**.  I know we are getting a late start, but I think we can TOTALLY beat out our  record from last year ($480). Let's DO THIS. For SCIENCE and KIDS!!

A big shout-out to Janet Stemwedel who ALREADY gave money for the kids! Because she is a fucking rock star!


*may have actually been a Nexus. Still, someone won it ūüôā

** when I figure out how, I'll add the updater to the sidebar, I promise!



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Ch. 2: And the Poultry is Vanquished

Oct 06 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Last night, we heard Chapter 2 of Drug Monkey's Twitter bed time story. A continuation of Chapter 1: Terror in the Land of Romnin.

I had to know: what's a splort?

I did not know that.

At this point, Becca really wanted to hear about the Bears. And Pascale wondered if we were going to wander into  on of the fabled Fucking Care Bear Tea Parties. But apparently, no.

I love happy endings...but then things got exciting!


DM kindly skipped the violent bits, so that I wouldn't have trouble sleeping.

OK. I did not see that coming.

QR Gertzin has an awesome job. I can't wait for the investigation!

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Better than a kick in the teeth!

Oct 05 2012 Published by under academia, grants

I woke up this morning crazy stiff from my workout with the new trainer yesterday. And then I just spent a good portion of my day in the dentist office, unexpectedly. It totally, totally sucked. But then the shitty day took a turn for the better when I got some happy grant news! My R01 that went in in June was in study section yesterday - and MY. GRANT. WAS. SCORED!!!! I had been hopeful when I hadn't gotten a "not scored" email last night, and even more guardedly optimistic when it was not waiting for me this morning. But I have now checked into Commons and there is real evidence (you know, a score!). That's right, no triage this time baby! I got a real score! Now, it is probably* not a fundable score, but it is an improvement. And scored means I get a summary statement and then I can resubmit. WOOOT!!!1!!11!!!1!!!!!


*but really, who knows. There is no budget yet, so that doesn't help. But I'll have to wait to see what my PO says about it after I get the summary statement back. Never can tell and all ūüôā

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Announcing #AlliesFTW Q&A

Oct 04 2012 Published by under academia, gender, queer

A while back on twitter, I got in a conversation with Joe (@josephlsimonis) from charismatics are dangerous about what folks in academia can do to be allies for the queer* students in their midst, especially trans* folks**. As we were chatting about things that profs/teachers/faculty can do to help queer students feel welcome and comfortable in academia I realized that I really had no idea.  I don't know what will help other queer folks feel comfortable in any given lab group environment. And yet, I am in a position where there may be queer students in the classes that I teach. And if there is anything I can do to foster their interests in science, I want to know what it is, so that I can do it. In short, I want to be an active ally. But how? What specific steps can I take to make the academic environment better for queer students? We talked about allies in the DiS Blog Carnival earlier this year, and came up with some good ideas when Labroides asked what a new prof could do to create an environment that fostered diversity, so that ze could recruit and retain folks from different backgrounds into hir group. And now is a great time for all of us to up our game. This leads us to the announcement:


Queer students often have widely different classroom experiences that can vary based on their specific queer identity/expression, as well as and any other identities which might intersect with their queerness in the classroom. Many young adults are coming out/identifying as queer while in college, and so the classroom and other academic settings are important places to make as welcoming and affirming as possible.

We are hosting a blog Q&A to discuss the issues that queer students have in academia, and to try to figure out what those of us in a role of  professor/teacher can do to foster an environment that allows our queer students to thrive. Since every student and environment is different, we hope that we can get a diverse group of folks both asking questions and contributing answers. So here's the plan: over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be asking for you to submit questions for the Q&A carnival. If you are a teacher/prof, what questions do you have about how to be a super ally? If you are a queer student, what do you wish the teacher/prof would take into consideration? Submit your answers in the comments section here or on Joe's blog, or email your responses to me (gmail at primaryinvestigator) or her (gmail at josephlsimonis). If you would like to remain anonymous we will strip your emails from any identifying information before posting questions on the blog. And if you are on twitter, join in with the hashtag #AlliesFTW.

We will collect question/comments until Oct 19 or so. Then Joe and I will put together the list of questions and post them on our respective blogs so that you can all chime in to give us a sense of which are the best ones to answer first. Then we will try to address each question/comment on the blog. We can only speak from our personal experiences, so the hope is that we will spark a good discussion that includes and reflects the spectrum of experiences.  We will try to keep the series going as long as progress is being made. In the end we can all be better allies!


*by queer, we mean anyone who falls under the broad lgbtqgqia+ or "gender and sexual minority" banners
**the trans* notation, with asterisk,  is a way to note that gender is not binary, and there are not just "boys" and "girls". I learned about it from Joe, and it is pretty awesome.

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Letters of Reference....

Oct 01 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

...make the world go round. Alternative title: What you should do to maximize your chances of getting a good letter of reference from a pre-tenure PI*.

When you are a grad student or postdoc and you need a letter from someone it seems like a Big Deal. But it really isn't. As a PI, it is part of your job to write letters for folks that have trained with you (plus others that you interact with).  In my short time as a prof, I have had to write a few letters. For folks that want to go to grad school, grad students (in and outside my lab) applying for training grants, and the occasional postdoc applying for fellowships or jobs. I am not (yet) the person that asks someone to "draft" a letter for themselves. I kind of find that disturbing, though I now understand why one might do this.

I try very hard to write a letter that accurately reflects the accomplishments and talents of the person for whom I'm writing. In a perfect world, I would make sure to mention all the things the referencee (who I'm writing the letter about) has done that would be appreciated by the granting institution. There are two main things required for me to do this: 1) I need to know all the awesome things the referencee has done and 2) what the granting institution is looking for. As a letter-writer, the more information that I get from the referencee that can help me fill in these blanks the better (with the best possible view of you, of course).  In the best case, the referencee will give me the answer to ALL the questions that are asked in the instructions to letter writers. This is not as easy as it seems, especially from folks that are not actually in my lab**. There are different ways around this. When I was a postdoc, some folks had me "write my own letter". I HATED THIS. But now I can see how it is a great way to get all the info you need from the referencee. I didn't know what was supposed to be in a letter, and it is really, really hard to write a letter about yourself.***** But I was always very careful to address all the important points based on the application. I also had folks ask to provide a bullet-point list of my accomplishments. At the time, this seemed vague. But in retrospect this would be a great way to make sure that all the information that the letter writer needed was easily accesible. Other folks just wrote me letters. They (I think) knew me pretty well. We would talk before they wrote me a letter, and I sent them a current CV and a copy of my grant, so hopefully they had all the information they needed.

ANYWAY. Writing letters is not that hard. After you read a few you get a sense of what people are looking for. And honestly, it is part of my job that I don't get pissed about. Folks wrote letters for me, I'll write letters for students and postdocs that I train. But if you want to make sure to get the best, most accurate letter possible you have to help out the folks that are writing for you. Especially if it's not your primary PI. Here are some easy tips:

1. Send your current CV, your grant, and a copy of the funding announcement to your letter writers.
2.  Include the instructions for letter writers.
Seriously, make sure they know what the grant/position is and WHY you are applying

3. If there is a bullet list of things the agency is looking for from letter writers, ask the writer if they would like a bullet list response. They may not use all your answers, but knowing how you see your past experiences and accomplishments fitting in can be very helpful.

4. Give the letter writer a friendly reminder by email or phoe. Don't go all crazy emailing every day. But you should send a reminder 2-weeks-or-so before the letter is due and again 2-days-or-so before it is due (depending on if they have turned it in).



*IME, YMMV (obv). Also, that second title sucks.

**because I can yell out of my office and ask them for info I don't have.***

***Also, I know them better

****REALLY HARD. In fact, I ran the letter by some faculty I trusted and many thought that I wasn't positive enough about myself. WTF?


10 responses so far