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Archive → June, 2011

Project SEED student having a sweet summer

One of the lovely pleasures I have as a prof is serving as principal investigator of a NIH-funded program to encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue doctoral training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.

As one aim of the project to encourage student writing skills and engagement with the public and scientific communities, we keep a blog over at the Scientopia network, NCCU Eagles RISE, to chronicle the progress of these wonderful young folks.

Today, NCCU rising sophomore Victoria Jones holds forth on her current research experience at the Penn State Medical Center at Hershey.

Why do I write about Victoria here?

Well, she is a product of the ACS Project SEED program (Summer Research Internship Program for Economically Disadvantaged High School Students).

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Go. Dream. Read.

I thought I’d get a real blogpost up before getting on a plane to Chicago today. Alas, not.

In the meantime, have you been reading the Just Another Electron Pusher blog across the masthead here at CENtral Science?

You must. Seriously.

Since Leigh Krietsch Boerner left us for greener pastures, Christine Herman and Glen Ernst have been destroying it like a boss.

Go do this dream exercise as Christine suggests. And do play the video to learn about white blood cells – and see her dance!

Then, go congratulate Glen on his rescue from an involuntary hiatus.

Then, tonight, sit down with a glass of wine and read Christine’s profile of Kawal Tandon, a wine industry chemist.

And a hearty “well-done” to our benevolent overlord and C&EN Online Editor, Rachel Pepling, at the home office for putting together these two, fabulous writers to capture life in chemistry from graduate student to formerly-unemployed mid-career chemist.

More on LGBT in the workplace

Courtesy of The Center for Work-Life Policy, New York City.

Well, I sure picked a great week to revisit Linda Wang’s feature in the May 23rd issue of C&EN. Just in time for our Diversity in Science blog carnival focused on LGBT issues in the STEM disciplines, New York became the most populous state to legalize same-sex marriage.

The second bit of news this week is a report released by the Center for Work-Life Policy on “the loss to individuals and to the bottom line when organizations fail to create a workplace hospitable to their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees.” The report entitled, “The Power of ‘Out’,” is featured in the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review.

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On being a teenager with high-powered science & medicine parents

Yes, folks, today we have a major exclusive – what I believe is the first interview with Monica Berg, daughter of outgoing National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Director, Jeremy Berg, PhD, and breast cancer imaging expert, Wendie Berg, MD, PhD.

A little background: we wrote about Dr. Berg back in April after he had received a 2011 American Chemical Society Public Service Award in a ceremony on Capitol Hill (C&EN article here). The gentleman that he is, he wrote to thank me and we had a bit of a discussion about the family’s pending move to Pittsburgh. Wendie was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh and Jeremy was named associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning for their School of Health Sciences.

As detailed in this very nice University of Pittsburgh Medical Center press release from December 2010:

In moving to Pittsburgh, Dr. Berg is supporting the professional aspirations of his wife, Wendie A. Berg, M.D., Ph.D., an influential imaging expert who led a major clinical trial investigating the roles of ultrasound and MRI as adjuncts to mammography in breast cancer screening. She will join the Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, as a professor in March 2011.

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“Alex, I’ll take ‘Public Chemistry Literacy’ for $1,000″

Nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, on this planet IS CHEMICAL-FREE. Any questions?


“Okay, Public Chemistry Literacy for $1,000. . .”

“The answer is, ‘Absolutely nothing.’”



What things on Planet Earth are “chemical-free”?

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

Tonight in the United States (and maybe even in Canada), the legendary game show, Jeopardy!, will be dedicated to questions on chemistry in celebration of 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry. Here are the details from the IYC website:

Jeopardy!, one of North America’s leading syndicated game shows, will feature questions related to chemistry and IYC in an episode airing in the United States and Canada on June 21, 2011.

With its 9 million daily viewers, Jeopardy! provides the perfect venue for publicizing the IYC’s message – to celebrate chemistry and the contributions that it makes to society, and to increase the interest and public appreciation of chemistry.

Watch Jeopardy! on June 21 and play along with the contestants to test your knowledge of chemistry. The show can be viewed in the United States on ABC-TV (check local listings for air times in your area).

And for those of you playing along at home, @CASChatter will be live-tweeting beginning at 7:30 pm EDT.

Perhaps I shall as well.

LGBT in the Chemical Sciences: Outstanding Feature by Linda Wang

Join LGBT scientists and allies for the blog carnival at Jeremy Loder's Denim & Tweed. Click the icon for ideas!

Before I get to the meat of this post, I have a public service message related to why I’m calling attention to some superb, recent work by Linda Wang in a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

This month marks the renewal of the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival, a series of monthly blogpost round-ups centered around a rotating theme of topics related to things unrelated to straight white guys. Launched originally by Dr. Danielle Lee, Jeremy Yoder has offered to host this month’s theme at his Denim & Tweed blog to celebrate the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in the STEM disciplines.

How does a blog carnival work, you ask?

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DrugMonkey in New York Times profile of NIDA director, Nora Volkow

Hearty congratulations to my neuroscience of drug abuse colleague, DrugMonkey, on his kinda-sorta quote in The New York Times on Monday (see bottom of first online page here).

The profile is on Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and one of the top scientists in the field of addiction who has the rare gift of being widely-respected by both scientists and science administrators. Her staff even engages the scientific blogosphere and I wrote up a lengthy email interview I had with her in 2009 back at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sig.

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CENtral Science, represent!

The 202 and the 919 stomping terra in the 505. Dr. Lauren Wolf, C&EN Associate Editor and Newscripts blog and print writer, with yours truly and his CENtral Science T-shirt at Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, NM, during a break from the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop. The large ceremonial kiva above us is accessed by a series of four ladders that rise 160 feet from the canyon floor. Credit: Some nice guy who used Lauren’s camera but whose name we forgot to ask.

Yes, I’ve tagged this post in my category, “I Can’t Believe My Life Happens to Me.”

During the week of May 30th, I had the pleasure of participating in the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop, a 15-year labor of love run by New Mexico-based science writers, Sandra Blakeslee and George Johnson. This year, about 50 “students” were in attendance, ranging from professional writers like Dr. Wolf at C&EN and Newscripts above to freelancers, public information officers, and other academics like me who are working on improving our skills to communicate science to non-technical audiences.

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Eating Dirt and Terra Sigillata

“A cloak of loose, soft material, held to the earth’s hard surface by gravity, is all that lies between life and lifelessness.”

– Wallace H. Fuller, Soils of the Desert Southwest, 1975

El Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico. Credit: www.elsantuariodechimayo.us

Dirt is a paradox.

Children playing in the dirt all day are admonished to wash their hands before eating dinner. But eating dirt, or geophagy, has been pervasive throughout centuries and across diverse cultures.

I learned last week while at the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop that northern New Mexico is home to soils used for religious purposes. El Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic shrine and pilgrimage destination, is home to a small pit of soil called El Pocito. Legend has it that in 1810 a local friar saw light bursting from a hillside and found a crucifix when digging to identify the source. Since then the soil in the hole has been believed to impart healing properties.

The legend is so pervasive that Gerald Callahan used the story to launch a 2003 article in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But one needn’t make a pilgrimage: you can order your holy dirt of Chimayo here. Alas, one is advised today that the dirt is not to be eaten or drunk, although other information on the website indicates that has been on use of the soil.

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Twitter for Scientific Meetings

Twitter is good for something. Really.

The true value of Twitter for practicing scientists comes from following the right people, individuals within and outside your field who often refer you to primary literature or reports that influence your way of thinking.

Over the last two years or so, I’ve found Twitter to have another use: following scientific meetings whether one is present or not.

In yesterday’s NCI Cancer Bulletin (31 May 2011), science journalist Edward Winstead wrote, Scientific Meetings through the Lens of Twitter, a detailed story on how attendees and followers from various backgrounds used Twitter to add value to the experience at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Orlando. I was delighted to be one of those interviewed for this story.

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