Archive for: October, 2011

The Donors Choose cocktail contest video!

Oct 26 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

You. Guys. Rock. So. HARD!!

Times are tough, I know, and yet you still managed to help kids in high poverty neighborhoods get the things they need to have enriched learning experiences--and for that, I salute you. I salute you with a video of me making a cocktail for one lucky reader/donor, to be named in said video. You may note that while my iMovie skillz* have improved slightly over last year, my abilities re: processing reversed images and apple peeling remain, as ever, sub-par. Enjoy!

* No one is paying me to say this, but I can't help but to sing the praises of iMovie. It's got to be the single most intuitive, user-friendly program of any kind I've ever used. Every time I wondered how to do something, I did what I thought might be the way to do it, and that was the way to do it!  I only wish I had more occasions to make movies.

11 responses so far

Henrietta Lacks for everyone!

Oct 21 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The great and mighty (and newly twitter-ized) Odyssey brought to my attention a project this morning, and I knew immediately I had to get on board. Ms. Mucha's class is in a high poverty neighborhood in Baltimore, and she wants her kids to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you've read it (and go out and buy it immediately if you haven't), you know that I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most amazing and important books of the 21st century. Everyone should read this book, and I think kids growing up in Baltimore especially should read this book, because the story is a part of their local history that for a long time was unknown.

The project needs about $300 to be fully funded, and Odyssey and I want this done TODAY. The DonorsChoose board of directors donation match is still in effect through tomorrow, which means your donation can help twice as many students! Go donate! 

2 responses so far


Oct 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Does the air smell different to you today? That is the smell of winning, my friends. Everyone is winning today, because each and every donation made to between now and Saturday will be MATCHED by the DonorsChoose board of directors! I'm sure you've powered your way through an NPR pledge drive or 12 in your lifetime so you probably know what donation matching means, but just in case--it means that if you made a donation, your money goes twice as far! Whatever you give, you'll get a gift card in a few days to give the same amount of money to any project you like!

AND don't forget! If you make a donation through my Giving Page, you'll automatically make yourself eligible to win a personalized cocktail, that I will make on camera, just for you!

So you see? Students win science! You win cocktails! WIN-WIN!

PS- One of the projects is for new US immigrant children to visit a science museum, and the project is very nearly complete! If you finish this one off, I'll love you forever.

No responses yet

Well played, undergrads. Well played.

Oct 18 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Last week I gave a brief presentation on my research to around 80 or so undergrads who'd just chosen my sub-department specialty as their major. Almost all of them were freshmen. I mentioned  that I may have an opportunity or two in the lab, and that if they were interested, they could come see me afterwards. The students were super quiet during the presentation, so I figured I'd have 2, maybe 3 overachievers hang behind. Max.

Instead, a monstrous wave of hoodies, Uggs, and laptops descended upon me. It was an experience, I imagine, not wholly unlike that of the Egyptians as the Red Sea closed around them, Moses's caravan just out of reach.  Suppressing panic, I did what the Egyptians should have done (had they only the technology), and wrote my email address on the blackboard. "If you're interested in working in the lab," I said, "send me an email and we'll set up a time to chat."

I felt confident that this first obstacle would be an effective screening mechanism. Surely a good chunk of them would decide not to bother, or forget to write, no? No. I received no fewer than seventeen emails from students expressing not only interest, but eagerness and gratitude for the opportunity. I duly arranged meetings with each of them, hoping thinking that at least a few would flake out, thus making it easier to narrow things down.

So far, each one has shown up a minimum of 5 minutes early for our appointment. Sheesh, students! I mean, how am I supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff if you're all responsible and enthusiastic neuroscience lovers? I feel I have no choice but to go with the next obvious criteria, Semi-Pro Baking Skills, followed by Gets Friends & Family Discounts at Apple Store.

10 responses so far

You had me at "reconstructing a skeleton"

Oct 17 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

What in the name of FSM and all that is holy am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about owl pellets, people.  Kids dissecting owl pellets. Kids that you can help dissect an owl pellet, by donating to their project through my Epicsauce Donors Choose page.

Apparently--and I didn't even know this--when you dissect an owl pellet, you can pull out the bones of the little animals that the owl has eaten, and reconstruct them to get a sense of the owl's diet. Isn't that cool? As a bit of an anatomy nerd, I think that is really, really cool, and I really, really want these kids to get to do it themselves. The project is so close to being funded, and YOU could be the one to make it happen!  Even just $5 or $10 will help, AND DON'T FORGET, it will make you eligible to have a cocktail invented and named after you by yours truly!!!

And finally, here's a bouncy tune to get you in the giving mood.


One response so far

Font Wars!

Oct 14 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Yeah, it's been discussed before, but in light of October NIH deadlines, let's reopen this highly volatile subject. What font is most likely to get you that fundable priority score? With a little help from the Samuel L Jackson Lorem Ipsum ("SLIpsum") placeholder text generator, we're going to compare a few side by side.

The classic, of course, is 11 pt Arial. Here's what it looks like. Personally, I HATE Arial. I find it incredibly unpleasant to read--the letters all look too much like each other, and my brain just sees a wall of uniformity. If I'm reading this, I probably start glazing over the fastest.

Next up, Physioprof's favorite: Georgia.

As you can see, Georgia is serifed and therefore easier to read. It has the added bonus of gaining you a few extra lines over Arial (hence the extra space at the bottom), so I can see where PP's coming from. But to me it's a little squishy and clunky.

My new favorite, which I discovered when I read a friend's recent proposal that scored ALL 1's, is Palatino Linotype. Take a look!

How freaking gorgeous is that? Easy to read, good spaces between the lines, is it any wonder she got all 1s? Now, the one drawback to all that beauty is that you do sacrifice a significant number of lines--something like 4 or 5 per page, which can add up. But you know what? Figure it out! There is almost always a way to say something more concisely than you have, and your reviewers will love you for it.

And I mean really, isn't that the whole point?


36 responses so far

Why can't I save them ALL?!?

Oct 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

You know how sometimes you're just walking down the street, minding your own business and being a generally decent human being, when suddenly you walk by the pet store or animal shelter, and see that the evil pet store/animal shelter people have put giant cages of adorable baby animals out on the sidewalk for you to fall in love with? It is impossible not to stop and coo, is it not? And then, while you're making kissy faces and trying to touch those super soft velveteen OMGSOCUTE baby animal ears through the wires, something in the way those poor, helpless creatures looks at you takes hold. It is your duty--nay, your CALLING--to rescue these tragic, ADORABLE  things from the cruel hand fate dealt them. To take them home and give them the life they deserve. All of them. I mean, how could you choose just one baby animal? Impossible! Wrong, even!

I'm currently hiring a lab tech, and it's kind of the same thing, except for the bit about touching their ears. That may be illegal, not sure. NJC has no shortage of fresh-faced post-grads who may have actually held a pipettor in their lifetime, and for that I'm quite fortunate. My ad generated nearly 40 responses, and I've interviewed at least 7 or 8 candidates, many of whom I'm sure would be a great tech. I want to hire them all!

It's killing me, then, having to tell most of them that I can't hire them. The complete and utter suckage of the economy is right here, in my face--there is no reason any of these people should be unemployed. Wide-eyed and 22, agreeable and eager, college educated, they would probably be good at anything. And I mean, I was there, sort of. When I was 22 I was working in a lab for free, pulling espresso at Starbucks for $7.25/hr, and working the day shift at a sad, sad little bar in Berkeley. I remember going into the Dollar Store once and thinking, everything I own is going to have to come from here.

But at least I had a job(s). And I was applying to grad school and everyone I knew in Berkeley was sort of in the same financial place, and also there were no iPhones or much of the crap people (including yours truly) feel compelled to own these days. It was easier to be a young person. I think it's different now, and going through all of this with the Occupy movements as a backdrop has been...meaningful, in a way that I did not expect. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to bring someone truly exceptional into my lab to help me get the next stage of my career going, but  I am also sad for the people I won't be bringing into the lab, and I'm sad for the shitty situation most recent grads have been thrust into. Hang in there, you guys, and hopefully soon our country will find a way out of this ridiculous mess.

11 responses so far

Save the date-- SfN BANTER is ON!

Oct 05 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

As you may have already inferred, if there's one thing I like anywhere near as much as I like science, it's entertaining. And in light of last year's majorly successful tweetup in San Diego, I simply couldn't resist bringing BANTER back. What's BANTER, you ask? It's an acronym. I know the B stands for "bloggers" and the N stands for "neuro" or something, and the rest...eludes me. But never you mind! Just be sure that if you're in the DC area during the Society for Neuroscience meeting next month, you make some time to swing by and meet all your favorite neurosciencey internet friends IN REAL LIFE! See you there!

brain in jar image source

18 responses so far

It's Donors Choose (and cocktail sweepstakes) time!

Oct 02 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Every October, science bloggers across the 'sphere band together to support, an organization that helps fund struggling K-12 classrooms by channeling donations straight to the project of your choice! Hence the name, you see! To make it interesting, science blog collectives like Scientopia, Discover Blogs, LabSpaces, and FreeThought Blogs engage in a little friendly competition to see who has the most awesome readers/donators.

To help tilt the scales in Scientopia's favor, I've decided to bring back last year's cocktail video contest, in which one lucky donor gets a cocktail created in his or her likeness, and I'll post a video of myself making it! Who doesn't want that, really? In order to be eligible, you must donate to a project through Dr Becca's Epicsauce Giving Page. I've picked a few projects that I found particularly heartbreaking, but you can donate to any project you like through my page! Such is the beauty of DonorsChoose. Some of these projects expire soon, so do not procrastinate! However small, any donation helps.

Many thanks in advance!

4 responses so far