Category → Women in Science and Medicine
With all the discord in Washington these days, it’s rare to see several US governmental organizations working together to address a significant public health problem.
This week, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) mobilized Operation Log Jam, an unusual and highly-coordinated action with six other federal agencies aimed to shut down the synthetic designer drug industry in 109 US cities. The products targeted were of two broad classes: 1) synthetic marijuana “incense” products comprised of naphthoylindole cannabimimetic compounds first synthesized by John W. Huffman’s lab at Clemson in the mid-1990s, and 2) “bath salts” or “plant food” products containing the stimulant/empathogen mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) or the stimulant MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone).
This compilation of posts on synthetic marijuana and, to a lesser extent, “bath salts” serves as a good primer on the subject.
A new and already-dear friend is defending her doctoral dissertation tomorrow. I remembered that I had written a post awhile back on my feelings about my own defense, and how my perceptions at the time didn’t measure up to reality.
The timing of this repost also coincides with the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival just posted at Neurotic Physiology, written by another remarkable woman scientist friend of mine, Scicurious. The theme of that carnival is “imposter syndrome” – the broad pathology of self-doubt that one is somehow not qualified for one’s career. I should have submitted this post for that carnival because it falls into that category.
So, for what it’s worth, I’m reposting my feelings in 2008 from the 19th anniversary of my dissertation defense. (How quaint to see that I was using a Palm Treo back then!)
This post appeared originally on 13 November 2008 at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sigillata.
For whatever reason, I woke up really depressed and exhausted today – pretty much for no reason, I think.
I checked my schedule on my Treo – today marks 19 years since my dissertation defense.
I remember being really depressed throughout writing my dissertation thinking, “is this all I have to show for this many years of public support for my training?”
My defense was on a Monday so I spent most of Sunday practicing my seminar in the room where I’d give it – it sucked so badly that I couldn’t even get through it once.
When the time came, it was the most incoherent performance I had ever given or ever would.
I was a blithering idiot during my oral exam. There was a great deal of laughter in the room as I stood outside in the hall.
How in the hell did they give me a Ph.D.?
I just received a nice bit of news from my alumni Facebook page of the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop which I took last summer with C&EN colleague, Lauren Wolf.
Turns out that our classmate Cristy Gelling has been recognized by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) as the editor’s choice winner of their “Science in Stanzas” poetry competition.
The competition was launched by Angela Hopp, Editor of ASBMB Today, and to recognize the other types of creativity possessed by scientists attending the upcoming Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego starting next weekend (April 21-25). The judges were themselves rather accomplished poets and humorists in science.
Gelling’s lovely poem is entitled, “Consistent with this, cell extracts from the iba57Δ strain showed virtually no aconitase activity (Fig. 2A),” and is only slightly longer than the title.
Well, I’m coming up on 10 days on my new job at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences working on science communications for our new wing, the Nature Research Center. Beyond my creative and uniformly brilliant co-workers, I’m blown away by how many remarkable people I’ve met from around the state and world by just being at the Museum.
Among those were the filmmakers from the visual science education operation, Untamed Science. Co-founders Rob Nelson and Jonas Stenstrom. I learned that I was very fortunate to get an audience with Jonas as he was visiting from Sweden where he coordinates the team’s international science education efforts. He first met Rob, a native Texan & Coloradan, while both were studying in Australia. Joining them was their local documentarian partner, the talented Michelle Lotker.
Untamed Science describe themselves as “a group of scientists and filmmakers that have united with one simple goal – communicate science in a fun way to the next generation.” Their portfolio of free video and text content covers the spectrum of biology, physics, chemistry, earth science and technology.
Their target audience began as middle-school students but many of the details are those that parents (yes, me) might not know. I had a fabulous time sitting with our nine-year-old daughter last night to go through about a dozen of their videos and podcasts. Bedtime was delayed significantly – thanks, folks.
A belated Happy New Year, folks! May 2012 bring you high yields, great happiness, and good health.
Museum Director Dr. Betsy Bennett was named Tar Heel of the Year by the Research Triangle area newspaper, the Raleigh News & Observer. Bennett was recognized for her leadership and transformation of what has become the largest museum of its kind in the southeastern United States.
Since being appointed as director in 1990, Betsy has led two major expansions of the Museum from its humble home in the state agricultural building. N&O reporter Jane Stancill did superb work on this feature which graced page one of our Sunday paper. Betsy’s life story starts as does so many of ours in biology and chemistry, with a love of nature and how it works. I can’t do justice to Stancill’s writing – I absolutely love the imagery and metaphor of this concise thesis of her feature:
“Bennett’s skills developed on a natural path, a trail that meandered through science, education and politics.”
But I’m not telling you all of this to suck up to the new boss. Yes, yes, she’s a truly remarkable person and unmatched in her ambassadorship of the state’s central institution for science education. What I want to stress is that scientists are central to the daily life of citizens and should be recognized for these efforts as much as any sports figure, business leader, or politician.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Canadian radio host Desiree Schell for her wildly-successful show, Skeptically Speaking. The episode on which yours truly appears can be accessed here.
Launched in March 2009, the show airs live on Sunday evenings at 6 pm Mountain Time on UStream where one can discuss the show and asks questions by live chat. The show also includes a previously recorded segment with another scientist and is then edited and distributed for rebroadcast to stations and networks across North America. The shorter pre-recorded segment where I appeared to speak about my most popular topic of the last two years on this blog, synthetic marijuana compounds.
I’m not entirely guilty of self-promotion here because I primarily wanted to mention that the first two-thirds of the show – the live part – was an interview with my neuropharmacologist friend, Scicurious, author of The Scicurious Brain blog at the Scientific American blog network and Neurotic Physiology at Scientopia. Sci has a gift for offering laser-sharp science in a hip, conversational manner.
Here’s how the Skeptically Speaking team describes the show:
With humour, enthusiasm and a lot of curiosity, Skeptically Speaking guides you through the fascinating world of science and critical thinking. We interview researchers, authors and experts to help listeners understand the evidence, arguments and science behind what’s in the news and on the shelves. A basic understanding of science, combined with a little bit of skepticism, goes a long way.
Note: The term “skepticism” may be new to you. If that’s the case, click here.
Last Friday morning, I had the delight of Skyping in to a medical school bioethics class at Universidad Finis Terrae to discuss the virtues and pitfalls of animal research. I was contacted earlier in the week by an email from Xaviera Cardenas, a first-year medical student at this university in Santiago, Chile, who was looking for an international scientist to hold forth on this topic.
Readers of CENtral Science know that any novel chemical you synthesize must undergo some animal testing before it can be used in people. This is not our choice as individuals but, instead, a requirement of our regulatory authorities. Despite advances with in vitro technologies, testing in a limited number of rodent and non-rodent species is absolutely required.
Continue reading →
We’re packing up the world headquarters of Terra Sigillata this afternoon and high-tailing it out to San Jose, California, for the annual meeting of SACNAS – the Society Dedicated to Advancing Hispanics, Chicanos, and Native Americans in Science. It’s a tremendous organization comprised of several of my former students and faculty colleagues from over the years and I’m ecstatic about reconnecting with them.
With the initiative of my colleagues – Alberto Roca of MinorityPostdoc.org and Danielle Lee of The Urban Scientist at Scientific American blogs (plus a whole host of online activities) – we pitched and were accepted to present a session on Blogging, Tweeting, & Writing: How an Online Presence Can Impact Science and Your Career.
I’ll be discussing how a responsible, online presence on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can enhance networking opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Specifically, I’ll introduce how I’ve increased the exposure of my students who are RISE Scholars at North Carolina Central University. In this NIGMS-funded grant, I’ve been helping my students capture their research experiences in their own words (with previous review by their P.I.’s of course, to prevent accidental disclosure of unpublished data). The students have been surprised by the level of engagement and support they’ve received in the comments from scientists all around the world.
But I know of many other students who use blogs and Twitter to engage with the scientific community in ways that brings them positive recognition outside of their academic and laboratory work.
To better prepare for this session, I’d like to gather some advice from you, Dear Reader:
Who are some of students, trainees, and junior faculty, who best exemplify the use of social media for career advancement?
Are you a student who has had Good Things happen to you because of your social media activities? How did that transpire?
If you have any responses, please drop a link in the comments with a brief explanation – or longer if you’d like! And also feel free to recommend the sites and stories of others. I’ll be sure to promote your responses in tomorrow’s talk and direct attendees to this post for future reference.
The three of us thank you so much in advance for your suggestions!
I just had the delightful pleasure of participating in the C&EN Advisory Board meeting late last week. Among the outstanding C&EN writers and editors at the DC headquarters, I got to meet several others who are stationed around the US and the world.
One of these new friends based in New Jersey, Bethany Halford, has this week’s C&EN cover story on the marine natural products, the bryostatins. These complex compounds were originally studied for anticancer activities but, as Bethany tells us, are now showing promise in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease.
And while Bethany tells us that the first bryozoan source of these compounds was collected in 1968 from Gulf Specimen Co., she resisted the urge to tell us that the company is in Panacea, Florida. (Here’s a definition and etymology of panacea.)
Go forth and read.
Halford, Bethany. Chemical & Engineering News 89(43): 10-17 (24 October 2011)
Cover story - The Bryostatins’ Tale
Profile on George (Bob) Pettit - Pioneer: Undersea Treasure Hunter
Natural product drug development – Drug Development: Taking the Long Route
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).