Archive for: October, 2012

Up for air, at last.

Oct 25 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

The last four weeks were a whole new level of crazy.

The first two and a half were spent writing my first ever R01--by far the most challenging proposal-writing experience I've been through, and which drained every ounce of brain-juice from my being. How on earth do people do this more than once a year? I feel like I need to go surround myself with beautiful artwork or watch some international films or something to plump my neurons back up. In the end, though, I think it's pretty darn solid. Perhaps not one of the 5 or so upon which my study section will bestow a fundable priority score, but I'd dare say it's in good shape for a resubmission next year.

The middle 5 days were spent in glorious New Orleans for the SfN Annual Meeting, and I honestly think it was the best one I ever attended, from a personal standpoint. Which is to say that maybe for the first time, I really, truly, had the sense that this was MY world. It might have been the high from finishing the grant, combined with running into what seemed like everyone I've ever known in any professional capacity, but for a few blissful days the impostor syndrome kept at bay, and I felt incredibly lucky to be a part of something so amazing as this giant community of neuroscientists. And while I had every intention of eating nothing but lettuce and tofu in anticipation of my imminent wedding day, my intentions were no match for the temptations of NOLA cuisine. Oysters, crawfish, etouffée, bread pudding, pork belly, beignets, gumbo, shrimp, sausage...I ate it all, and I washed it down with about 3 dozen Sazeracs. Speaking of which, the BANTER party was an unquestionable success--we probably had around 150 people over the course of the night, all of whom were just lovely, not to mention impressively behaved despite open bar and free sausage sampler. Thanks for keeping it classy, guys!

Finally, the most recent 4 days were devoted to wedding-related activities! After months of planning and making a thousand tiny decisions, it all came together in what was without question the most beautiful night of my life. Special thanks to Dr 24Hours, who initiated the "doc_becca cake fund," and to all who donated. I'm totally humbled by all the internet love out there! Here's the gorgeous cake--lemon with buttercream frosting, and super delicious!

Now, if you REALLY want to give money to something worthwhile, I encourage you to donate to one of the very deserving projects in my Donors Choose Giving Page. Your donation will help needy kids learn about science, one  of the most worthy causes I can think of. And just as a little incentivization, your donation will also enter you in my Donors Choose cocktail video contest, in which I'll create a drink inspired by you, and shoot a video of myself making it. Kids win, you win, everybody wins!

6 responses so far

It's Donors Choose time! And cocktail video contest time!

Oct 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Every October, science bloggers across the 'sphere band together to support DonorsChoose.org, 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 the now annual 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 Giving Page. I've picked a few projects that I found particularly heartbreaking and/or inspiring, 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!

8 responses so far

Revised for NOLA - SfN survival 101

Oct 09 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Neuroscience is so soon,  you guys!! I am so excited I could just explode, but I shall not, because that would be gross. Last year I wrote this handy guide for SfN n00bs, and inspired by Neuropolarbear and Scicurious's recent posts, I decided to dust it off for the benefit and enjoyment of my neuro-inclined readers.

The Society for Neuroscience meeting is huge. I mean, seriously gargantuan. The number of scientists that will descend upon New Orleans this weekend is over twice that of the population of the town I grew up in, and while it's not for everybody, I love it. I love SfN. I haven't missed a single one since my very first year of grad school, and oh, the stories I could tell!

For some of you, though, I imagine this is your first time, and you may be feeling a teensy overwhelmed, wondering how on earth you can possibly manage ALL THAT SCIENCE! Well, here's a newsflash--you can't, and you shouldn't try. Below is a list of things to help you work your way through the madness without losing your mind and/or will to live.

1. Don't panic. About anything. Pretty much nothing at SfN is worth getting upset about, especially whether or not you get to see every last item on your itinerary. You're simply not going to, so best to accept that fact now. The abstract planner is available long after the meeting, so if you miss something, you'll always be able to contact the authors and ask them questions afterwards. It will probably make them so happy!

2. Don't overplan. Plan a little, but don't plan every second of the day, and don't think you're going to spend 3-4 hrs a day on the poster floor, because you will collapse from exhaustion. What I like to do is scan the daily books (now conveniently available in e-reader form) for sessions that encompass general areas that spark my interest, then stroll that part of the poster floor. Don't worry about the 1-hr time slot that the books list--many presenters stay at their poster the whole 4 hrs. This year, there's a cool new app for smart phone users called Hubbian, which allows you not just to plan your top must-sees, but also to rate abstracts and see what all the hot posters are.

3. Go to the big lectures. Especially for the n00bs, you can get a very nice sense of recent neuroscience history from hearing some of the fancy people talk. What is considered a Big Deal these days? Now you know, and if you absolutely hate it, you can always leave. The lecture halls are enormous, and people are constantly filing in and out. Nobody will look at you funny or think poorly of you.

4. Go out to lunch. I am so serious, get out there and get some fresh air! We're very lucky because the NOLA  convention center is actually in a part of the city with stuff around it (looking at you, Chicago), so you can easily take 45 min and go have a nice po boy or something. Convention center food is notoriously bad and overpriced, and I guarantee you'll be happy to have had the break.

5. Comfortable shoes. You are going to be on your feet like you've never been on your feet before, and they (and your back) are going to be killing you. I figure I walk at least a few miles a day inside the convention center alone, let alone going between the CC and my hotel. This is not the time for your fancy dress shoes, OK?

6. Dress in layers. Convention centers are usually cold, especially on the poster floor, but you never know--sometimes the smaller symposia rooms can get warm, especially after a few hours at capacity.  I always carry a scarf and cardigan or hoodie with me, so that I can adjust accordingly.

7. Take a half day for sightseeing, and/or sleeping in. I swear to FSM, the earth will not explode nor will your career be ruined if one afternoon you decide you'd like to take a Garden District tour instead of the conference. You'll feel so refreshed and ready to see more science when you're through!

8. Try to keep your notes organized. It happens. You're at a poster, and all of a sudden you want to write something down or get somebody's email address. You scrounge around in your bag for something, anything to write on, and come up with nothing but your Starbucks receipt. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten home from SfN and found a mess of notes on all kinds of things, and it's all mostly useless. Either bring your own notebook or make a beeline for the Sigma booth, because they usually give out pretty solid notebooks if you fill out a quick survey.

9. Snacks. So you don't end up spending $4 on a yogurt or eating one of those god-awful pretzels, find yourself a 7-11 and buy a box of granola bars. Then, whenever hunger starts to strike but you're not quite ready to vacate the premises, you've got a little something to tide you over!

10. Shmooze. Do not be afraid, padwan, your job is to make friends and impress people. Ask questions at posters and talks, go find your NIH PO, and come to the BANTER party! On that note, if you are a non-tweeting person and are planning to attend, could you do me a quick favor and announce your intentions in the comments? I'm just trying to get a ballpark figure for the bar. Many thanks!

Most of all, HAVE FUN. SfN is not only for you to present your work and find things relevant to your research, but also time away from the lab for you to think about the rest of this crazy, vast, neurosciencey world we live in. Enjoy it!

15 responses so far

Another five stages of grant writing

Oct 02 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Over at Pondering Blather, the inimitable Odyssey shares his Five Stages of Grantwriting, an apt twist on the old Five Stages of Grief story. It hit quite close to home, as I'm now feverishly trying to bang out my BRAINS proposal, but also because I feel as if I have my own similar, but slightly different five stages.

1. Confidence: Just drafted the Aims page! Ideas are all there, man, now I just gotta fill in the deets. I SO got this.

2. Distraction: SOMANYTHINGSONTHEINTERNETTTTTT

3. Incentives: This piece of chocolate will help me focus and be productive. Hmm, that was a little sweet, though, so let's have something salty to balance things out, like goldfish crackers! OK, but now I'm thirsty--I'll just quickly run out to the campus food court for a Diet Coke. But what if it's not quite enough caffeine? Better head out in an hour or so for a coffee, JUST TO BE SAFE.

4. Despair: How did anyone ever write a grant in the history of the world? It is literally impossible to do.

5. Zen: What's this? Words on a page! Finally, in the zone. I am one with my Significance, Innovation, and Approach. There is no spoon.

6 responses so far