Reddit AMA with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Dec04

Reddit AMA with Neil deGrasse Tyson

I don't know how many of you tune-in to these "Ask Me Anything" discussion threads at Reddit but I've been grooving on them since our colleague Derek Lowe did one back in March. In general, people of note can either propose their own session or be nominated to do so. Folks can ask them any question and the Reddit thread reflect their responses and discussion by others. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the giants in public communication of science. An astrophysicist who has been been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium for the last 15 years, Tyson will soon re-launch Carl Sagan's Cosmos series. The complete thread of Tyson's AMA can be found here. Here's one of his answers that may hold special appeal to our C&EN readers: Question: If you think 5 and 10 years from now, what are you most looking forward to in science? Any expectations? Tyson: Cure for Cancer. Fully funded space exploration. Physics recognized as the foundation of chemistry. Chemistry recognized as the foundation of biology. And free market structured in a way that brings these discoveries to market efficiently and effectively. The whole thing is pure gold (Or platinum. Or rhodium, actually.) But this one was my favorite - a reflection of the paucity of critical thinking skills in the American populace: Question: If you could add one course to a student's curriculum, what would it be? Tyson: Course title every university should offer: "How to tell when someone else is full of shit" Again, here's the whole discussion. Enjoy reading the thoughts of one of our leader's on the public understanding of science.   Credit: A generous hat-tip to Scicurious and Kate Clancy. Follow them on Twitter, not surprisingly @scicurious and...

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Call For Social Media Success Stories in Academia
Oct28

Call For Social Media Success Stories in Academia

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...

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What does Jonathan Sweedler think of bloggers? #scio12
Oct18

What does Jonathan Sweedler think of bloggers? #scio12

We just learned yesterday from C&EN's Linda Wang that Dr. Jonathan Sweedler has been named as successor to Dr. Royce Murray as editor of Analytical Chemistry. The next editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry will be Jonathan V. Sweedler, James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and director of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, the American Chemical Society, publisher of the journal, has announced. Sweedler will succeed Royce W. Murray, professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who will retire from the journal at the end of this year. Murray has served as editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry since 1991. Sweedler, currently an associate editor of the journal, will take over the position on Jan. 1, 2012. Regular readers of Analytical Chemistry have grown accustomed to Dr. Murray's colorful and lively editorials in each issue. Discussion of one of these, on the "phenomenon" of science bloggers as a serious concern to scientists ("Science Blogs and Caveat Emptor"), was my most highly-read and commented post since we joined CENtral Science. Since the international science communication conference ScienceOnline has been held annually in Dr. Murray's backyard, we issued an invitation for him to attend last year. We thought that if he could meet these science bloggers, many of whom are practicing sciences and top-tier science journalists, he might learn how positive this community could be for the advocacy of our discipline. He politely declined. But with him stepping down as editor-in-chief on December 31st, perhaps he might have more time to join us this year when ScienceOnline2012 is held at the North Carolina State University 's McKimmon Center on January 19-21, 2012. In the meantime, we'd love to hear what Dr. Sweedler thinks of this blogging...

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Supporting chemistry education in public schools
Oct13

Supporting chemistry education in public schools

Dear beloved, good-looking, and erudite readers of Terra Sigillata, Our blog is once again participating in a drive for DonorsChoose, an online charity established to fund small, public schoolteacher-initiated projects that are not otherwise supported by their school districts. The annual DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge - Science Bloggers for Students - is a friendly competition among blogs and blog networks to use their reach to put our collective money where our mouths are. As public school budgets are cut and cut, we have to maintain the quality of scientific experiences for our young people. Your generosity can help! How does it work? You click on my donor challenge, "Chemistry With Kroll," or on the graphic above. You see projects that I have selected to represent for our annual drive. You choose to donate a few doubloons to a project or two that move you (i.e., donors choose, get it?). No donation is too small (Okay, $1 is the smallest). When the project is funded, fulfilled, and executed, you get feedback from the teachers and students - pictures and notes that I challenge you to not bring a tear to your eye. Not all of these projects are for science directly; some are to fund just the basic tools needed to get teachers to a point where they can teach science. Most are in high poverty areas of my home state of North Carolina but I've added a few others from around the country. I'd love for you to support my projects but please feel free to donate to any project anywhere on the DonorsChoose site! I've participated in this project in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (click years to see my previous giving pages). You fine people have given almost $14,000 to support 39 projects that have reached 4,100 students. Pretty amazing for a little blog effort, eh?   Heartiest thanks and accolades for physical chemist, philosopher, and ethicist, Prof. Janet W. Stemwedel, for getting the ball rolling on this effort way back in the summer of 2006. Here's her post for this year explaining the whole blogger challenge. And if you care to tweet about this, Janet has established the hashtag...

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News & Observer tweet-up: my newspaper groks it
Jul13

News & Observer tweet-up: my newspaper groks it

For those of you social media butterflies, how does your local newspaper interact with you? Call me a dinosaur but I love my local newspaper. We at Terra Sig World Headquarters still get the dead-tree version on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and you'll occasionally see me blog here and elsewhere about pharma stories I first learn from the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. Part of the reason is because it is the main newspaper of the Research Triangle region. (The Durham Herald-Sun is another, with about 1/5th the circulation, and few people know that almost all of Research Triangle Park is located within Durham County.) I like the smell and feel of a newspaper and I immensely respect those of my friends who write for the paper. As much as I get excited on days when we get over 500 visitors here, the N&O has a print circulation of 134,470 daily and 190,514 on Sunday. But in these latest numbers from May, a new print/web metric was reported by the auditing firm who compiles these numbers. The N&O reaches a combined number of 797,346 unduplicated readers as determined from the last seven days of print and last 30 days of the online version. Like most papers around the world, the online readership far outnumbers those who access the paper in print. Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the second "tweet-up" sponsored by the N&O at Sitti Lebanese Restaurant in downtown Raleigh. The paper has been committed to engaging the online community and this two-hour gathering of local Twitter users was one of those activities. Writers, editors, and advertising folks from the paper were in attendance together with some of the best-known (and not-so-known) local voices in social media. We gathered around some fabulous Sitti Middle Eastern food provided by the N&O (the chicken kabobs, falafel, and hummus were to die for) and a cash bar in the restaurant courtyard, although most folks were sucking down the ice water provided by the waitstaff in the 100F heat. I had the pleasure of talking with Senior Editor Dan Barkin and "Interactive Retail Sales Manager" Kara Bloomer about the revenue challenges of online advertising relative to print - my interpretation of our discussion is that the fragmentation of eyes online significantly reduces rates per eyeball relative to print, thereby driving down revenue from print advertising since merchant budgets are now split across the media. Regular readers may also recognize Dan Barkin's name - he wrote a profile a few years ago on Anton Zuiker, the co-founder of what is now the international ScienceOnline science communicators conference. Dan's tagline...

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Project SEED student having a sweet summer
Jun30

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). Project SEED, especially here in North Carolina, is a remarkable cultivation program for high school students to pursue research. The level at which these students perform frankly blows me away, regardless of their background. In terms of presentation skills and depth of understanding of their project, I will put a Project SEED student - high school kids, folks - up at the level of any junior or senior college research student, even at the Research I institution where I started my career. I recently judged science presentations from these students and I'd love to have had some of our first-year graduate students see the poise with which these students answered questions after their presentations. While I'm singing the praises of Project SEED students who've come to my U, let me also provide you with a link to an essay by Melony Ochieng. This former Project SEED student wrote about her experiences as a travel award recipient for the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Orlando this past April. Melony won a third-place award from among the 70+ presenters. Yes, yes, yes - like many professions, being a prof is a thankless business. However, we are often touched by gold and have the opportunity to participate in the development of some truly remarkable young people. When I think back about Christine Herman's exercise the other day on working on what you are passionate about, I realize that helping young people achieve their dreams is what I'm all...

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