Archive for: February, 2013

Bon voyage!

Feb 27 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

In just under 48 hours, I'll be at JFK, dressed to the nines. J and I are at long last going on our honeymoon, but the fine folks at Orbitz decided not to seat two passengers whose tickets were purchased in a single order next to each other.  It made perfect sense to some algorithm-writer somewhere, I'm sure. The fine folks who answer the phones for AirFrance/Delta can't seem to do anything to help us (and yes, we've tried internet channels as well), so our only chance at starting things off right seems to be to show up looking particularly classy, and beg the gate agent for an upgrade. I can probably cry if I have to, I'll just have to revisit the Friday Night Lights series finale in my head for a minute.

Travel circumstances aside, I am SO excited for this trip. The 12 days we're gone will be the longest stretch of vacation time I've taken since before starting grad school, and the longest stretch of time that J and I will have spent together since I moved to NJC in July 2011. It is, to put it mildly, long overdue.

In anticipation of the upcoming lune de miel, I have been working my butt off this semester. In the past 7-8 weeks, I wrote and submitted 3 grant proposals and a review article, started teaching a brand new class of my own creation (my 2nd!), and brought a post-doc on board. I am exhausted, but happy. It took a little while to ramp up, but the lab's moving along at a really nice clip now, we have some super cool data, and we are just about ready to start writing two bona fide research papers!

It's all very exciting, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, here; before all that, J and I are going to eat the shit out of France. We will eat without shame; we will eat without fear. We will eat like there's no tomorrow, like it's going out of style, and like our lives depend on it (they do).  Brie. Bouillabaisse.  Steak au poivre. Croissants. Macaroons. Escargots. Haricots verts. Moules. Frites. Royale w/ cheese (JK). 

Au revoir, mes amis! And wish us bonne chance on the upgrade attempt.

18 responses so far

The data are what the data are

Feb 14 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

p < 0.05.

How many of you have seen these 6 little characters and felt The Rush? Admit it--it's better than Christmas morning, your first kiss*, and good bourbon all rolled into one! You want to run through the halls of your Classy Institution screaming, "I HAVE DATAAAAAAAA!!!!" - and you very well might do that.

But here's the thing we often forget: p > 0.05 is data, too. And having more significant differences doesn't necessarily mean your paper's going to a fancier journal. Earlier this evening, I caught whiff of a conversation on twitter, started by Sciencegurl, and it made me a little sad. She tweeted:


And that just about broke my heart. PIs, do you understand that negative data might not be the result of  your trainees being bad at science, but instead perhaps there simply are no differences?

Here in the Laboratory of Neuroscience and Awesomeness, we are getting to the point where we've collected what can only be described as a shit ton of data, and it is my job as PI to help my trainees make sense of it all. Their natural inclination is to hope that experimental and control groups are different in every measure possible, but that is of course not how things pan out, ever. For example, we recently had some interesting behavioral data, and so I asked one of my grad students to process tissue from the brains of the animals from that study (to me, running a behavioral experiment without looking at the brains in some capacity is like roasting a chicken and then throwing out the bones without making a stock. So much potential goodness to squeeze out!) So grad student worked extremely hard to do this --she worked long hours, all through winter break, and well into this semester. She trouble shot, she took gorgeous images, and she handed me a spreadsheet  full of raw data that I analyzed in every way I could think of, from every angle imaginable. But no matter how much I squinted or turned my head sideways, there were simply no significant differences between groups.

Would it have been fun if we had found differences? Of course. Does the fact that this data set happened to turn out negative mean we won't include it when we write it up? Fuck no. Like it or not, these data are part of our narrative, and it's our job as scientists to think hard about what both positive AND negative data mean for the story we're trying to tell. Not everything may fall perfectly into place the way we'd originally imagined it, but half the fun of being a scientist is trying to wrap your brain around the data you have, and coming up with a new interpretation of what's going on. Don't let your data make you sad, and for fuck's sake don't take it out on your trainees--make your data work for you. Because after all, the data are what the data are.

* truth be told, my first kiss was not all that pleasant, because braces.

16 responses so far

So God made a scientist

Feb 05 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

One of the more memorable (and perhaps controversial) ads during last night's Super Bowl was Dodge Ram's "So God Made a Farmer," which put an old Paul Harvey speech over some beautiful still images of farmers and farming-related items. The speech praises farmers for their long hours, dedication, and resourcefulness, and I have to say is pretty moving, regardless of your position on farmers or God. But because of the repetitive nature of the text, it occurred to me that it would lend itself quite well to a little meme-ification--what other group of people do we know that are hard working, dedicated, and resourceful? Why, scientists of course! And thus, #SoGodMadeAScientist  was born, and while I had been thinking of it in sort of a jokey way, some of your tweets were really quite lovely. I decided they deserved their own Ken Burns effects, and so with a little help from ShutterStock, I made this nice video for you. I could only fit a fraction of the tweets in the video, so be sure to check out the hashtag on Twitter to witness the genius in its entirety.

I highly recommend you watch the original ad first if you haven't already seen it, so that you can fully appreciate the extent of my parody skillz. Enjoy!

13 responses so far