Virtual Reality Is Changing How We Experience Science

The South Pole was exactly as I expected—snowy and barren, apart from the giant research station in front of me. Suddenly, I got a notification in my communication system that there was a strong signal coming from the sky. I looked up and changed the visual display settings of my goggles to find stunning views of the Solar System, all the way past Pluto. My heads-up display told me that I’ve discovered a subatomic particle, called a neutrino, that flies through the fabric of space at nearly the speed of light. I wanted to find the source of this neutrino, so I switched my display to X-ray vision. The signal brightened, and the source was revealed—a massive black hole. I captured as much data as possible so I could report back to the lead scientist on the project. What an exciting afternoon of research!

Okay, I’ve never actually been to the South Pole, but I experienced this event in virtual reality at a conference expo booth for the National Science Foundation. This experience put me in the shoes of an astrophysicist working at the IceCube Neutrino Detection Facility, operated by UW-Madison researchers. As someone who specializes in the life sciences, I had the opportunity to learn more about an area outside my expertise—the fascinating world of particle physics.

VR headsets offer immersive experiences for entertainment, education, training, and more.

Most people think of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the context of gaming or entertainment. You’ve likely had a casual AR experience if you’ve ever given yourself a flower crown in Snapchat, or hunted for Charmander at your local park with the Pokémon GO app. Yet, as I experienced at a conference several weeks ago, AR and VR can have massive implications for education and training experiences in the sciences. Continue reading

Celebrating the Many Faces of Science during Science-A-Thon

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“#dayofscience shows what it really means to be a modern woman scientist and helps break the stereotypes associated with our careers.” / Photo by Rae Ingold

If you follow Promega on social media, you may have noticed that several scientists and science communicators (including myself) were sharing posts for Science-A-Thon this week. The event was organized by the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN), whose mission is to create opportunities for mentorship, community, and collaboration for women in science.

The goal of Science-A-Thon was to “increase visibility of scientists and the important work they do to the public.“ The week-long celebration of science also served as a campaign to raise money for ESWN and to support Science Forward, “a STEM-wide initiative that empowers scientists, promotes scientists as role models, and builds on-ramps for students to engage in STEM.” Scientists and science communicators were invited to share their #dayofscience on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook to give followers a better idea of what a scientist actually does from day to day—from morning coffee to meetings to micropipettes. Science-A-Thon followed a science outreach trend similar to the #scientistswhoselfie movement by humanizing science and showcasing the fact that scientists are people, too, with diverse backgrounds and interests.  Continue reading

Collaboration Brings Researchers to a New Level of Discovery

2018 Steenbock Symposium program graphic. Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison Biochemistry Media Lab

I recently attended the 40th Steenbock Symposium at University of Wisconsin-Madison. This year’s theme was “Epiphanies in and beyond the RNA World”. Twenty-seven researchers from RNA and related fields convened at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery to share “eureka” moments in their careers. It was so inspiring to hear from founding members of the RNA community, including Joan Steitz, Christine Guthrie, John Abelson, and Harry Noller. I noticed a recurring theme throughout the talks: many of these epiphanies resulted from informal meetings (quite often at a bar or social event) between colleagues in different groups, sometimes from different universities. They discussed tough problems and brainstormed about how to solve them, pondered about what their peculiar results could mean biologically, or dreamed, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could  <insert awesome idea here>?” and then came up with a way to do it. It sounded like a wonderful time to be a scientist! Sitting together freely sharing ideas, motivated by curiosity and the joy of doing science.

As I thought back to my research career to look for instances of such encounters, I was happy to find a few. “Philosophy” Meetings during grad school and Tea Time during my postdoc—informal social events to bring people together from different labs and departments with drinks and snacks. RNA Cluster Meetings during grad school and RNA MaxiGroup during my postdoc—events where people interested in a certain research area (in this case RNA) would gather for dinner and to hear an informal research talk. These organized events were intended to provide a forum for conversations between scientists to spark new ideas. Sometimes, I would talk to someone in a totally different field and learn something new. But I really didn’t have an epiphany about my own research. I often found myself (and others) scurrying away after the event to get back to lab work. Was I missing out on the best part of the meeting: the after-discussion?

My reflection on the Steenbock Symposium talks led me to ask a somewhat troubling question:

In today’s competitive research environment, have we missed out on crucial discoveries and technological advances because they weren’t given the right environment in which to develop? Continue reading

#scientistswhoselfie: building a community of trust in the digital age

Danette Daniels, Senior Research Scientist

Earlier this year, an opinion piece published in Science criticized scientists who use Instagram as a tool for science outreach.1 The author argued that “time spent on Instagram is time away from research” and specifically called out female scientists for snapping selfies instead of proposing policy changes to battle the systemic issues of marginalization in STEM fields.

The piece received a significant amount of backlash from social media-savvy scientists. The community commonly referred to as “Science Twitter” is active in using the social media platform as a novel way to humanize science and engage with science-curious followers. Likewise, Instagram provides snapshots into the diverse lives of scientists who feel free to offer their own personal perspectives rather than acting as a representative of their institutions. These growing communities also challenge the stereotypical image of scientists as white men wearing lab coats. Furthermore, the digital presence of scientists and science communicators continues to be fueled by trending hashtags like #actuallivingscientist, #stillascientist, and #scientistswhoselfie.

Continue reading

At Promega, Corporate Responsibility Comes Down to Relationship

We recently connected with a customer who has been using Promega products loyally for years, but who had no idea what the company was like beyond that. She humorously commented, “Oh, there are people at Promega?” Now while we are of course pleased that the quality and capability of our products stand alone, we also place tremendous value on authentic relationships and sustained engagement in the company’s exchanges with customers, as well as employees, suppliers, the communities in which we work and the environment. We wondered how many others were out there with whom we would like to connect and say, “Hello! Curious to get to know us better?”

As a Promega Connections reader, we suspect you already know a bit about who we are, but for those who are especially inquisitive (as most scientists are) we also invite you to check out our newly launched Corporate Responsibility website. Click around and you will soon discover themes of innovative collaboration with scientists, meaningful interconnectedness with employees and communities, and long-term commitment to sustainable growth. The website contains highlights of our 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report, which you can read in its entirety here.

It really comes down to relationship, as Promega founder and CEO Bill Linton writes in his letter for the 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report: “More than any product, technology, or market in guiding our path, we continue to look toward relationship as our North Star to a fulfilling future.” (Read Bill’s full letter here.)

Promoting meaningful connection happens in many ways at Promega. Here are just a few examples: Continue reading

Shaping the Future by Investing in Science

“Today is certainly a great day for Promega R&D, but it is also a great day for science.”

Picture of people gathered

Community members and Promega employees gather for the ground breaking celebration for a new R&D facility.

Gary Tarpley, director of Research and Development at Promega closed his remarks for the ground breaking of the new Promega Research and Development Center in Fitchburg, WI, with those words.

With the ground breaking on this new R&D facility, Promega makes a $190 million, long-term investment in science.

But why invest in science?
Continue reading

Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists

A Promega scientist works with a girl scout.

Local girls scouts worked with scientists at Promega to learn how a cell culture facility operates.

My twin daughters are finishing up their 10th-grade year next month, finding themselves smack in the middle of their high school experience, and discussions of classes, colleges and careers are increasing in frequency in my household. (It’s cliché, but I have to say it… Where does the time go?) As the girls begin to ponder their future, my husband and I are encouraging them to gain real-life insight from adults who work in fields they’re curious about. It’s never too early to get a first-hand perspective.

One of my girls has known from a pretty young age that she wants to pursue something in STEM, and likely the “S” in the acronym. Her schedule happened to be open the night a few months ago that one of my Promega colleagues, Senior R&D Scientist Danette Daniels, was speaking on a panel sponsored by the University of Wisconsin – Madison chapter of Graduate Women in Science. My daughter wasn’t sure about how she’d be received as the only high school student in the room, but she agreed to go with me anyway. Besides, I told her, they’re serving pie.

The six women on the panel represented a huge variety of avenues (academic to industry), specialties (biophysics to geology) and professional styles. During introductions, one panelist declared, “I had a job in a lab and was depressed. When I was stuck in a library all day, I was totally excited.” She now works with an organization to recruit more women into STEM fields. The woman sitting beside her runs a research lab and declared, “I love the bench quite a bit, and I don’t want to be in an office reading!” Continue reading

National Optimism Month—Make it a Year

People working togetherToday’s Promega Connections blog is written by guest blogger Tori Sheldon, North America Marketing and Events Coordinator.

It is crazy to think how quickly the months fly by. It feels like yesterday I was watching the ball drop as 2017 turned to 2018. Now it is almost March, when Wisconsin starts to emerge from the cold winter. March also happens to be National Optimism Month.

As I think about optimism, I am reminded of one of the core values that guide interpersonal relationships at Promega: “look for the good, with discernment”.  The spirit of this value is to remember that deep down everyone is trying to come from a positive place and that even though we may not always agree with each other it is an opportunity for further discussion and collaboration.

This value is a part of the Emotional & Social Intelligence (ESI) program at Promega. Continue reading

Adventure in Belize

Today’s blog post is written by guest blogger, Josh Agate, Manager, Global CRM.

Picture from airplane approaching Ambergis Caye

Approaching Ambergis Caye.

Adventure is relative. Most people are looking for new adventures in life, and those can range from planning where to go on vacation to starting a new job. What each person looks for in an adventure and the level of thrill they seek is different. When I learned that Promega had awarded me a trip to a destination of my choice with my family for my job performance, I was excited to plan this new adventure with my wife and two daughters (ages 4 and 6). We decided on a trip to Belize.

The trip required two commercial flights, followed by a puddle jumper flight (with hand-written boarding passes), and a 30 minute boat ride before we arrived at our hotel on the island of Ambergris Caye.  This island, off the northern coast of Belize, would provide the backdrop for our family’s greatest adventure to date. The trip to get to the island wasn’t tedious travel for them; it was a wild ride that included a plane that held 12 people, flying over crystal clear waters and a boat trip, where our hair flew wildly as we were sprayed with ocean mist. Continue reading