Saturday, March 29, 2008

My first Scientiae!

The theme for the April edition of Scientiae is fools and foolishness in honor of April Fool's Day.

I’ve been contemplating this post where I talk about a couple of questions that keep plaguing me and causing me to doubt myself:

If there are this few women that are successful academic scientists and mothers, why should I think that I can do this?

What makes me different than all the other women that have tried and failed before me?

Over the last week, I’ve decided that it’s complete and utter foolishness to compare myself to other people this way.  I can learn from those who have failed just as much as I can learn from those who have succeeded.  And just because I don’t know anyone who has exactly embodied the future I imagine for myself, doesn’t mean that I can’t succeed in just the way I want (or some other equally satisfying, as yet unimagined way). 

I would be a fool to pigeonhole myself into other people’s successes (or failures).

My life is mine to do with as I wish.  I’d be foolish not to be alllll over that!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oh the vitriol...

The vaccine/autism debate has flared again on the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Apparently the consensus is that the government is all out to get little kids and make them all autistic.  And us scientist types, well, we're clearly evil.  Oh noes!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My first rejection!

I just received the comments from my first as yet unfunded grant.  Okay, so it’s not technically “my” grant…technically my PI’s, since I’m a lowly third year graduate student.  However, I wrote the entire grant myself and generated every bit of the preliminary data.  So it’s mine, dang it! 

I’m not too upset about it not being funded.  It was just a small grant to a private organization, albeit a very large private organization that I would like very much to fund me.  Or my project, as it were.  We’re still waiting to hear back on basically the same grant submitted to a similar organization.

I’m actually quite optimistic about this project now.  The reviewers enumerated a lot of strengths, so I was quite pleased about that.  The weaknesses they discussed were ones we were already (all too) aware of (except for that bit about my PI misspelling his own name in his biosketch and the bit about the one reference that has been refuted, even though the general finding holds). 

The weaknesses, on a first skim through:

Reviewer 1: We haven’t done adequate time in this model.  (Well, we haven’t.)  And it’s soooooooo different than the model you’re currently using.  (Only all the mechanisms of disease are almost identical.)  Also thought the proposal was better suited to an “innovative” type grant rather than a regular “research” type grant.  (We debated this long and hard.)

Reviewer 2: Spontaneous disease isn’t the same as induced disease.  (Really?  We hadn’t noticed.  The point is to try our method of treatment in spontaneous disease.)  Blah blah blah.  (Didn’t understand what that was all about.  Don’t know that there’s anything in the grant about that.  Will look.)  Is this other cell type affected by the treatment?  (Don’t know.  That cell type doesn’t really play a role in our current model.  Another reason to try this model!)

Reviewer 3: Aim 2 sucks.  Give me more preliminary data and I’ll try to get excited.  (I’m working on it.  Kinda sucks when the mice take 3+ months to even get sick.)  By the way the PI is an idiot and can’t even spell his own name.  (I could have told you that.)  By the way, the paper that you referenced that demonstrated X, that paper has been refuted by these papers.  But X that you cited it for is still true.  (Oh noes!  You know the literature better than me.  I’ll do better next time.)

Maybe later we can talk about all the positive comments about how awesome I am!


It seems someone has covered my chair in superglue.  At least, that’s the memo my butt sent me.  I just can’t bring myself to get up and do anything at all.  I need to go thaw out some cells.  This is a major ordeal because we have a rotating student that’s sitting at the desk where the computer with our frozen cell log normally is.  Why is that a problem?  Well…the computer is an ancient piece of junk, but the big problem is that it’s currently sitting on the floor.  And I refuse to get that much of my body that close to the grody lab floor.  So there.  Of course, in the time it’s taken me to write this, I remembered that I printed out the entire log as a backup, and it’s sitting in the file cabinet beside my desk.  Easily within arm’s reach.  Hooray!!!

Of course, then I have to trek down the hall and fiddle in the liquid nitrogen for who knows how long, mostly because the cells probably will not be where the log says they are.  But that’s just the kind of week it’s been.  And then after all that I actually have to deal with thawing the cells?!?!  This is why I’m getting absolutely nothing done this week.

The smart and efficient thing to do would be to work on one of the two manuscripts I currently have in progress, assuming I can’t unglue myself from my chair.  But no.  That will not do.  It’s a much better use of my time to surf the internet.  And I’m really having to resist the urge to text my sister and tell her to stop being a manipulative bitch, but that’s another post entirely…

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday morning links

I really didn't want to get into this whole autism/vaccine debate again, but it seems I just can't help myself.  Here are a few links of interest, many of which are to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's abysmal coverage of the Poling case.

Original AJC story (with absurd comments)
Latest vaccines/autism post at Respectful Insolence
AJC piece by David Kirby (who appears to be a REAL winner)
Autism News Beat letter to the AJC about the Kirby piece
Blog on AJC about the Kirby piece
Other blog on AJC with sane people commenting

Please comment away on the AJC blogs.  Somebody needs to do it.

Expelled from Expelled

Check out this entry over at Pharyngula.  Laugh as hard as I did.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A new baby! And other lab musings...

Congrats to Post-doc Friend on the birth of a baby girl!  This is an especially sweet occasion because of previous fertility issues and miscarriages.  It feels really good to see her so happy after all that she’s been through over the past year or so.  Hopefully we’ll get to see the little one today!  (I tried to knit some booties, but didn’t check my gauge, so I ended up with not so cute booties that would fit Bigfoot Baby.  Oh well.)

In other news, I’m sitting here collecting my first crappy data this week.  I had been on a roll since late last week, generating awesome data out the wazoo.  Of course, we all knew it would end.  Life’s just like that. 

I finally got around to reviewing Post-doc guy’s paper last night.  It sucks.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  The data is interesting.  Let’s just say that brevity and organization are not his strengths.  Crazy man wants to submit it to a fairly high tier journal, but I don’t think that’s going to fly.  I understand why he thinks it’s so interesting and splashy enough to be accepted there.  On the other hand, it’s directly related to my favorite project and I was bored to tears.  If I had been reading the paper after it’s published, it would be one of those where I make it through a paragraph or so of the intro and then resort to just looking at the figures and legends.  I guess you could say the text didn’t add much.  And that’s not good. 

Now back to the data collection already in progress.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bored! (a.k.a. no motivation)

Today has been a slow day.  Well, I guess it’s just been a slow afternoon.  I was working like crazy this morning, the fruit of which was a fabulous repeat of Glorious Result #2.  One more repeat of that (assuming the dumb mice ever breed), and my longsuffering manuscript from my work as an undergrad will be completed and submittable.  Once I find it and freshen it up and add references that aren’t 5 years out of date.  I think the end is finally in sight for that project.

And now here I sit, not wanting to do anything.  I tried to talk TM into letting me go home early today since crazy PI is “working from home”, but that’s a separate rant.  I need to get up and do something worthwhile.  I wanted to go home and get some writing done, and I’m supposed to be reviewing a paper that Golden Post-doc wants to submit by the end of the week.  All good stuff to do at home.  But nooooo…TM insists that there is grand science to be done.  Maybe I’ll get up and do a little something.  Motivation is definitely lacking.  

Monday, March 17, 2008

Can I do this?

I had a really crummy week last week.  One of those I-hate-science-why-would-anyone-do-this-to-themselves-I’m-never-getting-out-of-bed-again kind of weeks.  But TM was awesome and perked me right up on Friday night just being awesome like he is.  So this week I’m trying to have a more positive attitude.  I’m trying to believe that I can actually do this, that I’m actually good at this, that I am a competent, even capable scientist.

And then there were babies.  My extended family added two new baby boys to their ranks on Saturday.  Babies always kind of shake me up because I want one so bad, but at the same time I know that now is not the time.  We are totally not ready to go there on so many levels, but I still have a hard time being patient, especially when there’s a fresh one (or two) around. 

And so the combination of those two things, a crappy week and two new babies, got me to thinking about women in science.  (Like that’s something new.  Thinking about women in science and gender roles and all of that has taken me over lately.  Hijacked my brain.)  It dawned on me over the weekend that there are no tenured female faculty members in my graduate program or my department that have children.  None.  I have been at this university for almost 7 years now and I can think of a grand total of two tenured mothers.  Two.  I didn’t go looking for more…it’s not like number of kids is right there under someone’s directory listing.  But still!  Even if I include non-tenured faculty, I can only come up with one more.  (Of course, it goes without saying that there are almost endless numbers of male faculty members that are tenured and have children.)

The thing is, though, I’m not bitter about all of that.  I’m not angry about it.  Well, not right now.  I’m not upset about it.  The thing that really bothers me is that I have no good female scientist role models.  I want to be an academic scientist.  I also very much want to have a family.  Is that possible?  When I’m down like I was last week, I look at this whole situation and I think, “If there are this few women that are successful academic scientists and mothers, why should I think I can do this?  What makes me different than all the other women that have tried before me?”  Am I really arrogant enough to believe that I can be different?  Do I have any reason to believe that I can not fail?  How can I believe in myself in the face of all that? 

But I’m trying to have a good attitude.  Trying to just keep pressing on maybe not think about it too much.  

Monday, March 10, 2008

Goals and fears

What is it that I hope to accomplish with my new blog?  Well, I guess sometimes I need a place to vent.  I guess I'd also like to use this to get to know myself a little better.  To explore the experiences I'm having a bit deeper and maybe grow a little.  I tend to be very quiet, so I'm hoping this will help me find my voice and build my confidence.

I'm afraid that I'm going to suck at this.  That I'll never be anything close to as enlightening or entertaining as all the blogs I read.  Maybe this blog will be terrible...we'll see.  But at the very least, hopefully I'll learn a

Hello and welcome!

I've been debating starting a blog for quite some time now, and I finally managed to take the plunge!  So now, where to start?  I'm a graduate student in a cell biology sub-field.  Most days I think I'd like to stay in academia, but I'm still trying to figure out my life and my place as a scientist and how that fits in with my real life.  Speaking of real life, I have a wonderful and amazing hubby I've decided to call The Man (TM) and a very fluffy kitteh named Mr. Lou.  And I can assure you there will be unbearably cute pictures of Mr. Lou (and probably a sporadic lolcat or two).