Careers in Science: Kris Pearson, Custom/OEM Production Manager

It began at a sink. Advancing from Dishwasher to Production Manager might seem like an unusual career path, but after speaking with Kris Pearson, the Custom/OEM Production Manager at Promega, it appears perfectly ordinary. I was thrilled to meet with her and discuss both the broad strokes and gritty details of working in Custom/OEM Manufacturing. Continue reading “Careers in Science: Kris Pearson, Custom/OEM Production Manager”

Ghosts

buddhabrot fractal image
Formless, recursive and abstract, it can be tough to wrestle the ghosts of the conscious mind.

Please believe me when I say this is the hardest thing I’ve done. Typing this sentence might as well be lifting a boulder, and the next could be even heavier. Before this, the hardest thing I’d done was say “good morning” to co-workers, and before that, it was simply getting out of bed.

Just about the only thing I find easy is going to bed, but sleeping is a different story. Every night I lie down, unsure if I’ll fall asleep within seconds and wake what seems like moments later, swatting aimlessly at my alarm clock, or if I’ll remain awake, tired beyond belief but some mysterious finger in the dyke preventing a flood of sleep from washing over me.

I’m one of the approximately 21 million people in the United States who suffer from major depression. Let me tell you, it’s kind of a bummer. Lying awake at night might sound terrible, but it’s the easiest thing in the world compared to writing a sentence, saying “hello”, smiling. I live each day negotiating a watery fog, often unsure what people tell me, confused about what comes next, and desperate for the energy to participate in the world.

This isn’t an essay asking for sympathy; receiving pity from others would only make me feel worse. Besides, as a function of suffering from depression, I’m convinced nobody is reading this, that nobody is going to read this. This essay is for me. Only by engaging and grappling with this disease in words and in actions can I ever hope to pin it to the ground.

Continue reading “Ghosts”

Slightly More than Half of Everything I Am Is Thanks to You

In honor of Mothers everywhere, we are unashamedly recycling this post because it’s just that good.

Building Blocks of Molecular Biology

Here is a stop-motion animation about PCR, something I threw together in my free time.

Analogues

People who know me well have, at some point, heard me hold forth on the subject of Antarctica. It’s a passion of mine, though I’ve never been there. The forgotten continent is like the Sirens, pulling those who dare to trespass upon the ice back to one of the bleakest places on Earth.

I have consumed many accounts of life there, and have configured my internet services to deliver me news reports that deliver little crumbs of information. Anything that mentions Antarctica crosses my screen.

My fascination derives from boyhood dreams of space. Young visions of piloting starships and traversing Martian landscapes – visions of adventure, glory, and alien encounters – shattered in daylight on a January day in 1986 as I sat cross-legged on an elementary school gymnasium floor. It would be years before I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, but watching the Challenger disintegrate into a fiery end, I immediately understood one of its central lessons: space is not glamorous, glorious, or any more alien than many of the places on our planet. Space is cold, unemotional, and unforgiving. It is intolerant of error, and it is lonely. And despite these things, it is where any future humans can hope to have must lie.

I will never go into orbit, but Antarctica, that’s the next best thing. Cold. Unforgiving. Intolerant of error. Nearly devoid of life except that which we import and resupply, it is where we troubleshoot the logistical problems of sustaining remote and isolated human colonies. Having spread across six other continents, it is our last terrestrial frontier.

No, I will never float among celestial bodies and listen to the low murmur of the universe rippling deep in the dark silence of space. But there is another place where we pursue science, a place closer to home, where I can be cold and alone and maybe catch a stray shard of a broken childhood dream.

Better Living through Design

ClearviewHwy in use on road signs in Madison, WI
ClearviewHwy in use on road signs in Madison, WI

Perhaps this is a sign that I need a more interesting life, but I was thrilled to see some of the highway signage in and around Madison, WI, start to change over to Clearview, a typeface designed specifically for road signs.

Nearly everyone who’s driven a car knows the limitations of the current standard for road signs, FHWA Series fonts (it is affectionately called “Highway Gothic” by typophiles). At night, the letters seem to blur together and glow, and some characters are difficult to distinguish from others.

Clearview is the result of nearly a decade of work, making a typeface that is more readable without increasing the dimensions of the existing road signs.

You can read about Clearview on the official website, and of particular interest is the Research and Design section.

Wolfram|Alpha: The World’s Knowledge, Computed

Friday, May 15th, 2009. 11 days ago. The 135th day of 2009, in the 20th week. 36.71% of 2009 had elapsed, and 63.29% remained.

Depending on where you keep your ears tuned on the internet, it may have passed as just another nascent weekend, or you may have been waiting for this day for quite some time – not because it was the 97th weekday of 2009, but because of the launch of Wolfram|Alpha.

I can’t claim the hot level of anticipation that others would – I’d heard the name thrown around on tech blogs and treated with a certain reverence. But starting about two weeks ago, I got feverish emails and IMs from various net.friends.

“Wolfram Alpha launches on Friday.”

“Did you hear about the launch?”

“Check out this screencast NOW.”

Anything subtitled “Computational Knowledge Engine” would normally earn ample mockery from my friends and I, but a few quick queries on the site should disarm all but the most eager attackers.

This is no mere search engine: compare this random string of letters – ACTTACAATG – and the difference in results between Google and Wolfram|Alpha.

There’s an entire section of examples of Life Sciences queries, including a Molecular Biology subsection.

This is less search than it is some kind of very fancy calculator. My hunch is that we’re only hearing the beginning of this tool.