Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
Working for a company that made artsy rubber stamps, coordinating the process of turning artwork into the stamp and its label. Married, and trying to get pregnant, too.
2. 5 things on my to-do list today:
Return a call to someone at work
Go to a movie
Eat something cool on this hot day
Post to my blog
Snuggle with my guy
3. Snacks I enjoy:
Almost anything chocolate
4. Things I would do if I was a billionaire:
Buy land in ecologically-sensitive areas
Pay off my siblings' mortgages
Buy a winter and a summer house
Get my own plane to travel in
Figure out a way to contribute to scientific literacy
hey, I'd make a great philanthropist...
5. 5 Places I've lived:
Bowling Green, OH
Fort Collins, CO
6. Jobs I've had:
Day camp kitchen prep
Computer image editing
Passing this on to the next person...
And more people, if I can think of more friends that have blogs!!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Saturday, June 21, 2008
The average conference presentation goes like this: the speaker is introduced, and they talk for about 12-13 minutes while showing PowerPoint slides, then leave a couple of minutes for questions and the installation of the next speaker.
It never ceases to amaze me how many speakers run over time. Today, it was about 1 in 4. I think that's a lot, especially given the fact that it's not a huge deal to rehearse a 13 minute talk several times to get it down.
Some interesting talks though. My least favorite part is having to choose between the 10 concurrent sessions because there's usually a couple of talks that I want to see that are at the same time and I have to choose.
OK, back to it.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
As I write this in the kitchen of my brother and his wife's house, he's frying up trimmings from these huge rib eye steaks in order to make a pan sauce to serve with the grilled steaks. I'm energized by visits with my family, nourished, even. Wow, he just flambe'd the stuff in the pan - blogging and a light show - cool. Anyway, while I am quite satisfied with my life in CO, I get a lot out of visits with my siblings. I'm nourished intellectually and emotionally in ways that help me remember who I am and where I'm going in this life.
Oh, and my favorite quote from the flight out here: "Minneapolis? I'm going to St. Louis!" This from a man already seated on the plane. Here's my favorite part, (emphasis mine) "How could THEY let ME on the plane?" Um, how could you confuse the two cities?
Monday, June 16, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I've been getting ready to travel next week to a conference. The Evolution Meetings is a conference of several scientific societies and the stuff that's presented there always seems to jibe most with my interests. I'm presenting a poster called, "Genetics of Culex pipiens complex subspecies and their hybrids along a transect". That's the shortened version, if you can believe it. The poster looks great (imo) and after showing it to the boss, I'll get it printed.
We've also stumbled upon another incidence of hybridization that is interesting because it's assumed in entomological circles that the two species in question don't hybridize. Initially we thought the evidence was a result of contamination, but it now that we've looked for more of it, there's something going on. My coworker who is on leave was supposed to be the one investigating this one, but it looks like I'll be doing it instead. It's an exciting research question, and I'll get more experience cloning and sequencing bits of DNA, so that's good.
I'm also (finally!) moving across the hall into some new lab space today. Whoo-hoo!! No more sharing the placemat-sized space among three people. I'm sure there will be stuff that comes up in terms of what goes where and who gets what, but I'm really looking forward to working in the new space.
I'll be staying with my brother while at the conference, and it is always nice to be the happy beneficiary of their hospitality.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Unfortunately, plans changed and he instead spoke about the importance of the work people were doing who attended the conference and the need for that information to be disseminated to the public. Very true. As an example of the public's scientific illiteracy, he told a story about how he was talking about Ebola virus and at the end of it, someone commented "yeah, and that's found in spinach!" Um, that would be E. coli... There's a lot of work to do.
His point was that one of the ways information gets from scientists to the public is through journalists and the media. He urged the audience to not reject requests for information from the media, saying that it's common for people to fear being misquoted (or just plain getting it wrong), but that they normally have a chance to fact check before the piece goes to press. I think his point is well taken. There is a phenomenal amount of research being conducted on more things than we can imagine, and the basic ideas can be explained in plain english.
I'm all for scientific literacy, and I also believe that Americans in general want to be informed, they just get fed so much stuff, it's hard to discriminate. I don't have an answer for that, but if reputable publications make an effort to at least talk about findings of interest to the public, it would be a big help. I also think science writers might be able to put the information into context (so important) and that could make it more relevant.
For example, I was talking to a dog park friend this afternoon and she was describing work her sister does, looking at depletion of minerals in soil in poor countries. Blah, blah, yawn - until it's put into the context that these minerals are micronutrients that aren't getting to the people who need them, and it becomes a public health issue.
So, I think Quammen has an excellent point. A vast amount of science happens without the world ever knowing about it. I was amazed at all the facets of infectious disease ecology that came up just at this little two day conference. The media can do better at, as Quammen said, "connecting the dots" for the public, who should know more about topics that affect their lives.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
What I mean is that I realized today how I missed that energy of being at a conference. How discussion (when it isn't an attack, as occasionally happens) occurs at the end of talks and people have ideas and share new ways of looking at data, it's one of the best parts about doing science, in my opinion.
I'm in the throes of making a poster to present at the conference. I chose a poster partly because I hadn't done one for a while, and also because it gave me more control over when I would present. I'm presenting my research on the genetic characterization of two subspecies of mosquito and their hybrids along a transect.
I like the Evolution meetings because I find their content most in line with my own research interests. Does that make me an evolutionary biologist? I suppose maybe. I'm interested in hybridization, adaptation and population dynamics, so it fits.
And I had the realization lately that these processes are what interest me, so I'm not going to get hung up on not being able to work with plants right now. The mosquitoes are a good model organism for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that no one cares if you put the extras in the -80 freezer when you're done.
So, I'll post my poster when I'm done with it. I like it so far, but, like my brother said, it always takes longer to make one than you think.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Here's the link:
Indeed, the illusion they show at the beginning of the piece sure looks like it's moving, when it's not. CB bought the issue to show the birders he works with how brightness and color perception are relative. For example, do this one (credit to Edward H. Adelson of MIT):
Look at the squares labeled A and B. Are they different? They sure look different, but, no, they are the same shade of grey. You can print it out and cut out the squares if you like.
I've been thinking about the brain and all the cool gadgets that make up our sensory machinery. Mr W's had a thing lately for the "Magic School Bus" books and videos. We checked out a book on the senses and we read it every night for bedtime stories for almost three weeks. When you think about how sensory input is translated into nerve impulses, it is pretty darn amazing. Especially sight and hearing. Things most of us take for granted are incredibly complicated.
Apparently our visual system is pretty easily fooled, to which the abundance of optical illusions can attest. This is likely because shared networks in the brain. The article says:
But the same neural machinery that interprets actual sensory inputs is also responsible for our dreams, delusions and failings of memory. In other words, the real and the imagined share a physical source in the brain.
Monday, June 2, 2008
This year, I missed the date entirely. Forgot about it. I realized over the weekend that this day passed about a month ago and I didn't even think about what it "meant".
Live and learn.
Do these things "happen for a reason"? I don't really believe that, but I've learned a valuable lesson with regard to the timing of when to talk about money. I also think that opportunities come up for people who are more or less looking for them.
As far as being able to learn the techniques I want to learn, and do the kinds of studies I want to do, my present job offers a lot. Besides being extremely flexible in terms of projects and work hours, it pays well and is reasonably well funded in terms of equipment and supplies. The only downside is that I miss the collaborative aspect of being in academia, but maybe I can find it if I work at it a bit.
This all has me thinking too about what I see myself doing 5 or 10 years down the road. I would like to have more responsibility (with a corresponding hike in pay), and I'd like to get back to working with plants again some day. But the mosquito gig has been good to me and, most importantly, it's what I make it.