She’s Going Soft! – A commentary on “hard” and “soft” sciences

scientific-methodThis week I gave notice that I would be terminating my employment at Promega. This was a very difficult decision as I have really enjoyed the past six years here.  While I am leaving Biotech, I will not be leaving science all together.  Over the past few years, I have used my research, analytical, and organizational skills to assist various non-profit organizations in the community.  My primary focus will be on reform of the criminal justice system and racial disparities.  Spreading the word about this decision has resulted in a number of responses (overwhelmingly positive) including the comment that I am going soft! This got me thinking about where the terms hard and soft science came from. Continue reading “She’s Going Soft! – A commentary on “hard” and “soft” sciences”

What are you so worried about?

stress ropeThe world we live in is increasingly high-paced and demanding of time and attention. Cell phones and social media keep us constantly stimulated. This kind of environment can lead to stress. Stress is a normal reaction to high-pressure situations and can be a healthy mechanism to help us increase performance for a short period of time.

While stress is a response to a specific situation, anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness that may not trace back to an identifiable source. Anxiety is a perfectly normal feeling to have once in a while, especially during or just before or after periods of prolonged stress. This feeling can be beneficial in some cases by creating a heightened awareness and preparing us for what is to come. Continue reading “What are you so worried about?”

5 Signs You’re Ready to Earn that Ph.D.

confused5. No one in your family bothers to ask you what you’re studying anymore.

The longer you spend in a Ph.D. program the more opportunities your family has to ask you what you’re doing in school. No doubt, you’ve spent the first couple years of graduate school going to family functions and trying to explain to your grandma what a molecule is. She will eventually come up with an explanation of what you are doing that she can share with her friends. Her description of your work may or may not be correct, but she’s not going to bother trying to understand it anymore. “Good for your honey, you’re so smart!”

4.  Your former life as a bartender or grocery store clerk starts to sound really appealing. Continue reading “5 Signs You’re Ready to Earn that Ph.D.”

5 Signs/Symptoms of Science Hoarding

The bag drawer: complete with random, old empty glass vials.
The bad drawer: complete with random, old empty glass vials.
As defined by Mayo Clinic, “hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. “  Symptoms include: cluttered spaces, inability to discard items, moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything, difficulty organizing items, excessive attachment to possessions, including discomfort letting others touch or borrow possessions, limited or no social interactions. (Although the last one is a stereotypical trait, that many misinformed people associate with scientists.)

Note: Compulsive hoarding is a very serious mental health condition that we have seen exploited, in recent years, on reality TV. I don’t mean to make light of that condition, but I do want to have a little fun here.

If you have ever walked through a research lab you have probably seen most of these symptoms piled on lab benches and consuming storage space.

  1. Your lab bench is 10 feet long, but you only have two feet of work space.  You have every possible reagent or kit out on your bench, including solutions you used five projects ago.  All of these items must be out on your bench (instead of in cabinets and drawers) so you can see them and access them instantly when inspiration strikes. Besides, they wouldn’t fit in the cabinets even if you tried to put them there.
  2. Continue reading “5 Signs/Symptoms of Science Hoarding”

Cholesterol Management and the Importance of Diversity in Clinical Trials

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (1), 50% of women in the US have high or border line cholesterol levels and cholesterol level tends to increase as we age. Most of you are probably aware that cholesterol levels are important for health. Cholesterol is a waxy, sticky molecule that is a very important part of your cellular make up, so cholesterol is essential for life. However, if we have too much cholesterol circulating in our blood, it can build up along artery walls and create blockages (plaques) leading to heart attacks or strokes.

Continue reading “Cholesterol Management and the Importance of Diversity in Clinical Trials”

The Ocular Mood Ring

file9751262525646I asked my Facebook friends what my blog post should cover today. They gave me a list of very creative subjects that I will try to cover in the coming months. The winning suggestion for today is “why do my eyes change color depending on my mood?” In a simple Google search, it is apparent that many people have witnessed the phenomenon of their eyes changing color depending on their moods.There seem to be many explanations for this from light scattering to hormonal influences to psychic powers. What’s the real story? To get to the bottom of this, let’s take a closer look at how eye color is determined in the first place. Continue reading “The Ocular Mood Ring”

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

raised bedYou may have read several posts on this blog relating to the non-spring-like weather we have been experiencing here in the Midwest. Well, it’s still cold, but the weather has to break sooner or later and that concept has me so excited to get my garden going! Have you ever considered gardening? Are you new to gardening? You may have considered it and gotten overwhelmed by the details- What class should I take? What books should I read? What do I do?

I am here to tell you to Just Do It! There is nothing like watching your own food grow and then eating it. Things have been growing in the dirt since the beginning of time with no help from humans, so if you approach your garden project with this in mind and just aim to take it lightly, gardening can be really fun! I got started about four years ago only because someone at work left a flat full of different seedlings and a sign that said help yourself. I waited until the end of the day and only a few disappeared, so I carried the whole flat home on the bus and got started with just a 4´ × 4´ plot. Here are some beginner tips; just things I’ve learned over the last few years, that may help you get started. All these tips will be from a Madison, WI, perspective, but should be applicable anywhere in the midwest. Continue reading “Vegetable Gardening for Beginners”

The Overachiever’s Kryptonite a.k.a. The Migraine Headache

Sometimes I feel like a super hero: taking on several projects at once and testing my ability to multitask and schedule to accomplish all my goals on time with quality work. When I get on a roll, I feel like no one and nothing can stop me. Like any super hero, however, I have my Kryptonite: the migraine headache. When the migraine comes on, my progress is brought to a complete halt and I am powerless. Light becomes unbearable, sound becomes intolerable, and I feel like a hatchet has sliced through my cerebrum and is lodged in my skull. For years, I suffered from these headaches and felt totally helpless. When the migraine came on, all I could do was lay in a dark, silent room, sometimes for days, praying for relief, as no over-the-counter medication could touch the pain. Continue reading “The Overachiever’s Kryptonite a.k.a. The Migraine Headache”

Your Brain on Drugs: Decision or Disease?

If you were around in the 1980s, you remember Nancy Regan telling us to “just say no” to drugs. That campaign focused specifically on the effect crack had on the community.  In the 1990s and 2000s, we saw and increase in reports of methamphetamine and heroin overdoses. Though they are perfectly legal, nicotine and even more so, alcohol can be just as damaging on one’s life when used in excess. The War on Drugs launched in the 1970s along with the Just Say No campaign brought tougher sentences related to drug possession, however, this has done little to deter individuals from using drugs. If you have ever had a loved one (friend, family member, or significant other) addicted to drugs or alcohol, you know how devastating it can be to watch their lives spiral out of control. Though society shuns addicts for making such decrepit choices, you wonder, “how could a person possibly choose to live like this?” Continue reading “Your Brain on Drugs: Decision or Disease?”