Thank you Blogosphere, its Dr. Scientistmother

28 10 2015

OK so pretty much anyone who ever used to read my writings here knows that I successfully defended my thesis in July. I am now Dr. ScientistMother, or Dr. elect as I haven’t been “hooded”.

I want to send a big big heartfelt hug and thank you to all of you dear readers. I can honestly say that I would not be Dr. SM without y’all. Both the Mommy bloggers and the Science bloggers got me through these past years.  Yes I did whole shit load of hard work. But when I was tired and defeated you all were my walls that I leaned on. You guys picked me up, dusted me off and set me back on the path. When I quit my first lab, some of you helped me find a great new lab. You cheered me on after the epic fail, you supported me through family shit. And after finishing some of you helped get me interviews.

I’m going to try and blog more. Looking back on some of my earlier posts reminds me of what a great forum this is.


Thank you everyone, readers, bloggers and twitter friends. This journey was so much more bearable and enjoyable because of you.


Happy place

17 09 2013

Today will hopefully end up being a productive day. I’ve left biochem for the last couple of days and have gone back to my happy place -> cell biology. And data analysis. It’s amazing how much better one can feel when they feel like their day resulted in some answers. Proteins xyz and epsilon are / are not affected when you remove protein c. Immunofluorescence FTW.

Tonight dinner is left overs so I should be able to work after putting bear to bed and the house doesn’t look like a tornado went through it. Yay for not getting sucked into watching crap tv. Tomorrow is more swimming. So I’m feeling sorta better….

A failed experiment is NOT indicative of your intelligence

12 09 2013

Or your ability to do science, or to graduate, or any other things. The only thing a failed experiment can tell you is that the experiment did not work.  An experiment not working is VERY different from an experiment not giving you the data you want. An experiment not working is an SDS-Page Gel not running for the 4th week in a row, all for different reasons.  The experiment not workings is not getting a signal on your membrane and you don’t know if its because the protein didn’t transfer, the antibody concentration is correct or the 2ndary is off.

Thats not entirely true. I know the protein transfer efficiency was enough to have protein1 detected. I know that 1 of the secondaries work fine. That is all I know. Oh that have 3 days of washing and probing, ponceaus S (1% w/v) picks up ZERO bands on the membrane.

So for all the newbie graduate students that started over the summer and the last couple weeks. The title was kinda for you. But mostly its the mantra I need to tell myself on an hourly basis as I struggle with biochemistry.

I will publish this damn story and I will graduate.





Baby Steps still get you there

9 09 2013

Just maybe slower,

One of the hard things about science, or at least for me is the inability to see the small success. The experiment didn’t work because I didn’t get quality, usuable data. That is not always true. So I’m going to focus on the things that did go my way or the things I’ve figured out:

The SDS-Page ran, just slowly. Most likely due to the leak in the chamber because I used the plastic blocker as opposed to making an extra gel. I will now just make extra gels.

1/x  primary / secondary antibody combos’ I need is working. I got clear, specific bands

a fresh aliquot of goat anti-rb secondary still did not give a signal, suggesting the primary ab was off I can probe with a known to work rabbit primary.

I figured out how to distinguish between Bar & Dr. I need the Bar+ Dr- flies but since both eyes look very similar its kinda hard. With the help of a former student, I figured out a plan that was quick and easy.

I went swimming on sunday morning

I went for a walk this evening. Score on the getting healthier front.

I looked at my crosses and figured out somethings I need to do in the am and after class to answer what is going on with the rabbit channel.

I’m getting better at the fluorescent western blot detection using the Licor. If anyone has sure fire tips that would be much appreciated!

baby steps folks baby steps

September Reset

6 09 2013

Where to begin? lets start off by saying you all are amazing. You have no idea how encouraging it is to know there are people in my corner.

I’m resetting this weekend. The summer was not the most productive or ideal. My sister caused some oscar worthy drama that had me drunk blogging, we were robbed and science was generally non-data producing. I’m not going to say unproductive because learning new techniques and trouble shooting is doing something. It just doesn’t make figures or give me something to show my PI, all i can say every week is I tried x, it didn’t work. Learning and troubleshooting something new can be incredibly demoralizing and frustrating. I’m feeling that at the moment. Having a leak in my gel sent me into a tailspin yesterday. As much as my head tells me I can’t let that happen, I can’t help but feel as if I’m hitting my head into a wall.

So I’m resetting. I’m not going to focus on just getting this technique / data. I’m going back to cell biology. Getting useful data, making figs. Fingers crossed that I can actually meet some goals this semester.

On the importance of presenting at lab meeting

21 01 2013

Dr. Becca put a post up a post today, asking about lab meetings and how different PI’s run them. I totally and completely understand that 1 style does not fit all and that everyone is going to have a different opinion. In the comments I mentioned what our lab does and then I was going to go on a rant about why I think its important to have students give “formal” presentations in lab meeting. However, I realized  my rant many reasons were going to turn into an essay, so I”m posting it here.

How does our PI keep on top of us? She’s busy. Alot busier than she was when I first started as she took on a Dean position a couple years ago. When I first showed up 3 years ago, we only had a weekly lab meetings, her door was always open so we often would often have spontaneous 1 on 1 meetings.  I recognized the need for  deeper dive into the literature, so the lab started a weekly journal club in addition to the weekly meetings.

Our PI does not attend our JC and we do not do formal presentations at it. We sit around a table, each person presents a different figure and we discuss the papers figure by figure. Everyone really likes this format because it does not take alot of time to prepare for,  its casual and we usually imbibe while we do it.

This has changed since our PI became a Dean. Our PI is now only around 2.5 days of the week because half the time is S/he is off working in the black hole deans office.  Since she would like to stay on top of what we’re all doing (we all have different projects and our lab studies 2 distinct systems) we now all have weekly 1 hr meetings with her. As we all TA, we decided to have lab meeting and jc alternating weeks so that our non TAing time isn’t booked up with meetings and seminars.  At lab meeting we spend about 10 minutes on lab business – ie accusing each other of discussing which lab items need to be clean or replenished.  A person then presents their data using a formal presentation style.

This is HUGELY important to the development of a student. All of us need practice at presenting our data.

We need to be able to tell an audience what we are doing, why its important and what its potential impact is.  We need to answering succinctly what are we doing and why to an audience that isn’t intimately involved in the project.  You have to be able to present this to your committee, at seminars and conferences. As a student, you better get your feet wet and practice in front of a group of friendly’s vs having a committee member ask you at your first meeting. Trust me, “My PI said so is not a valid answer”.

This is important as a newbie when you’re trying to figure out what your project is as well as a senior grad student to keep your eye on the bigger picture.

Putting together a formal presentation makes us look at our data and ask WTF does it mean? Where do I go next? If you follow me on twitter you know that I’ve found data. How do you lose data? Easy, I get on my little hamster wheel and start dissecting larvae, staining them with the crap load of stains I think I need to do, image them, deconvolve, quickly look at, rinse repeat.  Then I go on mat leave and don’t look at anything. Come back, I forget I’ve done some stains and so I get on the hamster wheel and work. The thing is if  I’m not looking at my data and  thinking about it what it tells me I”m going to get lost in the forest. Your data is your map.  Lab meeting forces me to do that. So then I go back to find figures and see that how I’ve did xyz stains 1.5 years ago. It makes me look at my hypothesis and say I’ve shown this to be false or true. Look I have these phenoytpes so I think this may be going on.  I was working on going down path A but my data (MY MAP!) tells me that I need to change directions and go to path B because that is what the data is telling me.  Or maybe I”m so set on going down Path A that I don’t see the really really cool detour with the flashing lights that my lab mates can see. Or I don’t the big fucking cliff I’m about to fall over on. My lab mates might.

This is great practice for learning how to give a talk. When most of start in the lab we give very basic presentation. I did this trying to figure out that. Its mostly a bullet list of stuff we’re doing to start off our projects.  Then as we grow, we start doing the presentations like I am now doing them. What questions am I asking with these experiments, how do they relate to what I am asking and why? How does this data fit in? Now when I’m putting together my lab presentation I”m trying to put together “my story”. How is my paper going to flow. Not sure I would’ve gotten here as quickly if I wasn’t listening to our rockstar postdoc give her presentations like this.

Sure post-docs and PI’s may have this down pat. We students do not. We need lab meeting to help us.  The caveat to the above situation is that you have to have a supportive environment. Which isn’t to say you ask easy questions of your lab mates, it means you ask really hard questions without attacking the person. You provide constructive criticism. If you don’t think something will work, you don’t say the person idea is shit. You say hmm, have you thought about how x, y, z may effect your idea. My job as a lab member is help thicken my own skin and that of my lab mates.

This part may be particular to our lab, we all work on very different projects. Yes we all use the same model organisms but we look at different systems and our asking different questions. We all make up random flies that may be useful to other members.  Lab mtg is a great way to show off a new technique or communicate a new fly line we made to ask a specific questions. Someone else maybe able to answer something in their project with it. We all don’t really talk that much. I’m in a 7:30am and leave when the others are coming in. We all work different hours and only overlap by a couple of them.

These are my reason for having formal lab meeting vs the rapid fire round table approach.

How Not to Engage in Science Communication

27 09 2012

Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I lost my shit yesterday. Not in a calm, rational, lets have a debate of the facts way, but in a visibly angry, shaking, refraining from telling this person that they’re a fucking idiot type of way.

How did this happen? Well I was at monkeys gymnastics class and had just walked into the viewing area after combing through bears hair to remove the wonderful lice that have taken up residence there. I was minding my own business when I overheard a parent telling other parents they were waiting to innoculate their child against Chicken Pox Virus (CPX)because if the child contact cpx, hir immune system would be stronger.

Parent: “getting over the virus will strengthen child’s immune system”

SM: deep breath, calmly “that is actually not true”

Parent: “will that is your opinion”

And cue me losing my shit.

SM: “No it is NOT my opinion it is scientific FACT. I am a scientist. I not some celeb listening to oprah.

Parent: “Well how do you feel about the flu vaccine”

SM: “its necessary for elderly, children and immune comprised individuals”

Parent: something about making choices and she’s entitled to those.

Cue me going fucking ape shit. As in this converstation is no longer between me and the parent but me telling off the WHOLE group of parents.

SM: “No its not just a choice you’re making for yourself. You are putting other children at risk. You are going to let other kids get sick. It is because of people like you that pertussi and whooping cough are coming back. Its because of people like you that kids are dying”

Parent: “I am not putting society at risk because I will inoculate my child if they don’t get CPV before a set age:

SM: “Do you know the reprecussion of having CPV? Its not just the mild scars and itching as a child. At minimum, you will develop Shingles when you’re older. Ask any elderly individual how it feel to have shingles. Its lighting your skin on fire”

SM: To entire group of parents “I am sorry for reacting this way, but it is a privilage of our education and where we live that we think we can choose not to have these vaccines. Ask any mother in Africa or the middle east and they would kill to have these vaccinations”

At this point a grandma got involved and told me to ask the women if she given her child the polio vaccination. Had any of us had to watch our children suffer with whooping cough.
Many of you may think I did the right thing. But I”m not sure. I was visibly angry. I was shaking and was pissed off at the attitude of this parent. Maybe I changed the minds of some parent there or confirmed to some parents that vaccinations are right. What I did not do was engage on a debate of the facts. What was this parents pychoNaturapath telling hir? I just put this parent on the defensive. It was a lost opportunity. I let every parent there know that if they didn’t agree with me, I was gong to bite there heads. That does our cause no good.

But seriously how can I not lose my shit when you are listening to a fucking Naturapath!!!!