Sunday, March 21, 2010


I know. Things have been a little quiet around here lately. And honestly, they will most likely continue to be for a little while. Some things just should not be broadcast to the entire intertoobz, and I need a longer cooling off period before I trust myself to write about the insanity in my life without saying some of those things. I also made a decision regarding my career this week that will entail using my few free hours (during which I usually would blog) for other activities.

I will still be hosting April's edition of the Scientiae Carnival. The deadline for submissions is only a week away! Check here for this month's theme and how to submit your post.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Things are... interesting in the Northland. May be changing. But unbloggable :(

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Open thread: Quantity vs. Impact

Manuscripts submitted to Glamor Mags are generally packed full of data. In fact, often one could envision a second paper being written based on what's in the supplementary materials alone. Of course, that might take the manuscript out of the running for publication in Glamor Mag.

So here's a question for you, readers:
  • Which is better: one publication in a glamor mag (as in the Cell/Nature/Science families) vs. two publications in a highly reputable but lower impact factor journal (say along the lines of JBC)?
I realize, as with so many things in life, there is no single answer
here. So perhaps the better questions are:
  • What factors impact your decision, and how so?
Upcoming T&P decisions, grant deadlines, job searches? Competition with other labs? Time from submission to decision? Personnel changes in the lab? Editorial interest?

Finally, if you decide to go for the Glamor Mag publication, how many times to you appeal a rejection before deciding to move on?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I hate it when you're right

Paramed  and I got into a not-so-little tiff last night. We were supposed to be enjoying a relaxing dinner. He was stressed from several insanely busy weeks, at both school and work. I was frustrated because of a number of things going on at work. During the course of conversation, I commented that I realized I needed to start thinking about a backup plan to the tenure track. Things went downhill from there.

That statement surprised Paramed because he'd never heard me express any doubt about where I would end up in my career. It was also not an easy thing for me to say aloud because, as irrational as it may seem, it felt like I was giving up a little bit--though when Paramed voiced that same sentiment, I denied it. He asked what I would do, if not what I've been working toward for years. I responded, "I don't know. There are a lot of options. But I do know that I don't want to stay at the bench if I'm just going to be treated like a set of hands the rest of my life."

"Do you feel that you're treated that way here?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Guru has told me exactly what experiments to do. Before I can even finish a set of experiments and think about where to go from there, he's telling me the next set of experiments that I should do. I don't even know what the big picture is; I've asked and all I got was a bullshit answer." I should note here that as a grad student, I was expected to design my own experiments, to take ownership of my project. Bear still had a hand in guiding the project, but he did this largely by asking questions to get me thinking about it, recommending priority order for experiments that I designed, and sometimes suggesting experiments but in a more abstract manner, leaving the design and interpretation to me for the most part. Perhaps I am idealizing my past experiences, but I have always been more committed to and excited about projects that requires critical thinking (outside of technical troubleshooting) and interpretation. I thought that's similar to what I would get here, but it turns out Guru is a micromanager--and I don't respond well to micromanagement. Anyway, back to the story at hand...

The ensuing argument revolved around the following main points:
  • Paramed was pissed that Guru was making me doubt myself.
  • Paramed was pissed that I was not being assertive and implied that I should stand up for myself and call Guru out when he's spouting bullshit.
  • I was pissed that Paramed was telling me that I was doubting myself and that he was telling me what I should do.
  • I was pissed also pissed that he was not accepting my excuses for me not being assertive.
  • There was back and forth about the correlation coefficient between amount of listening vs. amount of ranting on both sides.
Now only if said argument had taken as little time to fizzle as it did to write out those points. Eventually we called a truce and we got over it.

Of course, after I had calmed down and started thinking about what was said, I realized what had really pissed me off so much: the fact that Paramed was right. Or rather that what he said was true. It kills me that I've fallen back into being so polite and diminutive that I don't take a stand, that I've allowed that monstrous self-doubt to creep back in. I felt that I left grad school as a confident scientist, but I no longer feel that. And it was tough to be forced to admit it. Paramed can be brutally honest--which is a great trait and yet often painful at the same time. I am reminded of an insightful post and am now at the point where I "sack the fuck up and feele extremely grateful for his penetrating insights". Next to decide what to do about it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Scientiae Carnival Call for Posts: Sustainable Science

Many thanks to Amanda for hosting the March edition of the Scientiae Carnival. If you haven't already seen it, go check out people's thoughts on continuity in science. I am thrilled to be hosting the carnival in April and look forward to reading all the submissions. Even though the carnival broadly covers the topic of women in STEM, anyone is welcome to contribute. In fact, one of my favorite dude bloggers, Abel Pharmboy, hosted last year. Now on to this month's topic...

The theme for the spring 2010 national meeting of the American Chemical Society is Chemistry for a Sustainable World.There have been a number of reports, op eds, and blog posts about a diverse range of challenges in science. This phrase prompted me to see them as questions of sustainability. Whether discussing an individual career, a lab, funding, the academic research system, publishing, peer-review, or scientific innovation, at the heart of the issue is often the question of whether current practices are sustainable and what changes need to be made to ensure sustainability. This also brings the theme of April's carnival. From an individual to a more global perspective, definitions, successes, diversity, barriers... what makes--or breaks--sustainability in science?

To submit posts to the carnival, please email the permalink URL of your post to scientiaecarnival [a] gmail [dt] com by 11:59 pm on Monday, March 29. I will try to have the carnival posted here by 11:59 pm on April 1. I'm looking forward to reading some more great posts!