Persuading the Unpersuaded

I haven’t blogged for a while. I had a baby. Babies take up a lot of time and energy. Lack of sleep doesn’t make for good blogging.

But I also got discouraged.  This election and the potential impact it will have on science and health is discouraging.  The shouting of “fake news” from all corners of leadership because facts that they don’t like are being talked about is discouraging. (See a great video of Don Lemon walking off of the CNN set from real news being accused of being fake). My deep desire to share with you my passion for science but feeling like I need to address this political atmosphere (and really not wanting to because that’s not my passion and purpose) is discouraging.

But I’m a positive person. And as a positive person, I want to find a solution so that I can move forward and continue to do what I love to do – connecting science with the public.  So part  of my solution will be to stand will all people who support science and truth by participating in the March for Science on April 22nd here in Phoenix.

The other part of the solution will be harder.  I realized that not everyone knows a scientist. And maybe they don’t trust science and scientists because they have misconceptions of who we are and what we do. How can I persuade the unpersuaded and reach beyond the science bubble (as described in a recent Nature article)? I want EVERYONE to know a scientist, and I’ve realized it needs to start with me.

Stay tuned for more about this…but in the meantime, I will be blogging more in order to share with you all the awesomeness of science!!

What’s it like getting a science PhD?

By AdmOxalate (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory by AdmOxalate (Own work) CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. This is where I went to grad school.

In my last post, I talked about how to get into graduate school.  This post will be about how PhD programs in the sciences are structured and how they work, because I’ve realized from lots of conversations with my non-scientist friends and family – no one really knows much about this!

There are fundamental differences between getting a PhD in the sciences and getting one in anything else. The first main difference is that you don’t have to pay for a PhD in the sciences, and in fact, they pay you.  Don’t get excited – they don’t pay much. The current NIH stipend rate is $22,920 per year (only about $2900 more in 2015 than what I received in 2001).  Tuition and this stipend are paid for in different ways depending on the school.  Some schools have endowments that support graduation positions. For example, I was supported by an institutional endowment made by the Beckman Foundation for my first two years of graduate school. Some schools rely on the students working as Teaching Assistants (TAs) helping to teach undergraduate courses to support some or all of their tuition or stipend.  In many cases, the research laboratory that the student works in pays for the tuition and stipend using their grants. Graduate students themselves also can apply for funding, which along with helping fund their position, is a prestigious resume entry.  I applied for and was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship that supported my last few years of graduate school.

The second main difference between a science and non-science PhD is that there is NO WAY that you can work and get your PhD at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, you work. You work your butt off every day all day, but not while making money at another job. With the nature of scientific research, there isn’t time to have another job, and in most cases, it isn’t allowed by the institution anyway.

What is a graduate student so busy doing?  The graduate program at the WSBS, where I went to school, was designed to be very different from the traditional American graduate school model.  I’ll start by describing, generally (since all grad schools are different) traditional programs and then describe my program. Most PhD programs are expected to last between 4-7 years. The first two years are filled with a few key activities:

  • First two years: Traditional classes at the graduate level that cover scientific topics more deeply than an undergraduate program
  • First year: Rotations. These are short (usually 3 month) stints in a laboratory to figure out if you like what the research that lab is doing and whether or not you’d want to do your PhD thesis research there. This is also the chance for the head of that lab (also called the Principal Investigator or PI) to figure out if they want to have you in the lab for the next 4-6 years.
  • End of second year: Qualifying Exam. This exam, also called the comprehensive exam at some schools, is an enormous exam that is like the trigger for the institution to determine if you go forward in the PhD program or not. Usually held at the end of the second year, if you pass, you move on to nearly exclusively doing research in the lab to complete your thesis.  If not… well, I don’t think I know anyone who didn’t pass after at least a few tries.
  • Third year until you graduate: After the first few years, most of the time is spent in the lab. There may be required Teaching Assistant responsibilities or other required seminar classes (like Journal Club), but this varies by school. Then there are the thesis committee meetings.  Pretty early on in each student’s research project, a committee of 3-5 faculty at the university are invited to participate on your thesis committee.  Their job is to provide a set of eyes (other than the PI of your lab) to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. They approve the thesis proposal and meet with you regularly (in a traditional program, this might be yearly) to keep you on track. They are also the committee that reads and evaluates your thesis dissertation and holds your defense (more on that shortly).

As I mentioned, this traditional system is a bit different from what I went through at CSHL.  The philosophy of WSBS is to shorten the time frame from matriculation to graduation to 4 years while also maintaining academic excellence.

  • First semester (4 months): This is the only time I took core courses – what my mom called “Science Boot Camp”.  These classes were unique because instead of learning facts out of textbooks we learned how to critically think about, write about, and present science. The classes focused on reading journal articles, scientific exposition and ethics, and particular scientific topics in depth like neuroscience and cancer.
  • Second semester (4 months): After the first semester, we had three one month rotations that allowed us to explore our scientific interests to help decide on a thesis laboratory or just allow us to try something new. I did rotations in a lab that used computers to understand lots of scientific data, a lab that used microscopy to figure out how a cell worked, and a lab that studied apoptosis (where I ended up doing my thesis research). Also during this time, we did our one required teaching experience at the DNA Learning Center. Here we taught middle and high school students about biology and DNA.  The idea was that if we could explain science to kids, we could explain it to anyone.
  • End of year one:  After the first year, we took the Qualifying Exam.  For my QE, I had two topics assigned to me (Cancer and Cell-Cell Communication) and I had to learn everything about these two topics in one month. A panel then grilled me for nearly 2 hours on these topics, and fortunately, I passed.
  • Years 2-4: The classes are only held in the first semester and the rotations only held in the second semester so that we could focus on what we were doing at all times. No excuses. So after the qualifying exam we were expected to focus on all research all the time. The one exception being the Topics in Biology courses held each year.  The Topics in Biology courses were held for an entire week (7am-11pm) and gave you the chance to interact with experts in various fields both to extend your scientific knowledge and to critically think about new problems.
Photo Nov 15, 9 24 23 PM

My thesis. It’s about 1.5 inches thick. Or as my hubby said “That’s your thesis? Impressive, baby”

Doing research was intense lab work punctuated by intense meetings.  FYI – intense lab works mean 8am-7pm (or later) Monday through Friday and usually the weekend too (and by weekend, I do mean both Saturday and Sunday).  And let’s not forget the 4am time points when you have to go into the lab just to check on your experiments every 4-6 hours for 24 hours straight. But back to the intense meetings…The first intense meeting was the thesis proposal defense, which was held in the second year. This was where you told a committee of 4-5 researchers what you were going to research for the rest of grad school, they quizzed you for 1-2 hours and then gave you the go ahead (or not) to do that work. The next set of intense meeting were the thesis committee meetings every 6 months to keep each student was on track. Again, 1-2 hours of presenting and critical evaluation of your work by committee.  At some point, the committee gives you the “green light” to start writing your thesis, you take all of the work from the past 3-4 years and put it in a massive document called a dissertation. The thesis committee reads it, you present the work in front of them and all of your family and friends, and then again, you spend 2 hours in a room with your committee answering every question they can think of – aka “defending” your thesis.

Cathy_graduation

My PhD graduation day with two of my classmates. I’m in the center

As I write this, I realize that my thesis defense was 9 years ago next week. How time flies. After the defense, you have your PhD and officially graduate whenever the ceremony is held – in my case in May of 2007. I graduated 5 years after I started – just slightly longer than the expected 4 years for the Watson School. Was it easy? Nope, not even a little bit (ask my mom). Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

This post is dedicated to my classmates and my friends in graduate school – you know who you are.  Without you, I wouldn’t have made it. And to my mom, who convinced me at least twice, not to quit.

Book Club: Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

quacksandhacks

One responsibility I feel that I have as a scientist is to help people understand the science that affects them and their health. Part of this is to explain the difference between good science, bad science (which is just poorly done science resulting in incorrect conclusions) and pseudoscience (which is a set of claims, belief or practice that is touted as being based on scientific fact).  Some recent examples of my blog posts about bad science or pseudoscience focus on homeopathy, the inaccurate connection between vaccination and autism, and how the media propagates bad and pseudoscientific claims.

The task I’ve given myself with this blog is challenging because as well as explaining the science (good, bad and fake), I ultimately want my readers to be empowered to go into the world, read news stories, visit websites and see Facebook posts and be armed with the knowledge to figure out if what they are reading is legitimate or not.  This is difficult because even as a scientist, I often have to look at the primary data from publications and conflicting information to figure out what’s going on.

However, in my ongoing effort, I found that this book “Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks” by Ben Goldacre provides a great primer on bad science, pseudoscience and how the media hypes both. In the book description, they ask ” How can average readers, who aren’t medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what’s, well, just more bullshit?” and this book is a good first start.  With chapters on homeopathy, the placebo effect, the “science” behind nutrition, the absurd story of an MD offering multivitamins to “cure” AIDS, and the media’s role in propagating these “quacks” and “hacks,” you will get an education on how this terrible science is pushed on the the unaware. I think you’ll walk away illuminated, perhaps a little bit disappointed, but much better armed to understand all the science and “science” you encounter every day.

For more Book Club books, click here.

How do scientific papers get published?

I had a busy week last week.  Besides doing experiments, I was also working on a manuscript about sustainability in biobanking. I’ve talked in other posts about what a scientific paper generally looks like (see here), but not what it takes to get from experiments in the lab to publication.  This is what I’m going to talk about today.

First, you have to know enough of the field to have an understanding of what is known and not known.  Second, you have to identify a hole in that knowledge that you could fill by doing experiments to test hypotheses. Third, you needed to do well-controlled experiments that will hold up to careful analysis.  These will be the basis of your manuscript’s results section.

nytpuzzle

From the NYT article

Let’s talk about this point a bit more, but first, go to the New York Times and take this little puzzle (it’ll only take a minute or so). This puzzle boils down the essence of doing a good experiment.  You start with a hypothesis (e.g., the numbers are all even). You test that hypothesis and see the result. If you get a negative result, you come up with a new hypothesis and test that.  If it’s a positive result, you can do a few things.  You can decide that your hypothesis is correct and try to guess the answer or, in the case of the laboratory, publish a paper about your new amazing result.  However, it won’t get published because you could be wrong. You will have to find other ways to confirm your hypothesis using different or complimentary experiments.  You should also do your best to disprove your hypothesis. Even in the NYT puzzle, you should try to find negative results. This will help you better understand the limitations of your hypothesis and the results you obtain.  In the lab, it will likely also lead you down roads of abject failure that will never see the light of day, but that’s the reality of science.

Now that you have your experiments completed, your forth step is to actually write the paper.  My undergraduate research adviser always had a draft outline of the paper in process as experiments were being done. That way, he could fill in results as he went along. Most researchers aren’t that organized and they get to writing the paper when their adviser (or the head of the lab) looks at them essentially tells them to “get their butt in gear and write the damn paper, already!” Why is starting a manuscript so difficult? Mostly because it involves synthesizing information. Results on their own are beautiful pieces of success that could go anywhere and do anything.  Synthesizing these into a “story” and discussing the implications of these results on the broader field is hard work. And the wrong analysis can affect the chances of the paper being published or your reputation in the field.

The other challenge when starting to write is figuring out what journal to submit the manuscript to – and keep in mind, there are thousands of possibilities.  Depending on the scientific significance, novelty of the results, and general scientific interest, you may submit your paper to one of the top journals (like Nature, Science or Cell) or you may submit to one that isn’t.  Maybe you’re wondering why this matters?  Each journal has an impact factor, which indicates how often papers published in that journal get cited by other authors.  The more prestigious the journal, the more citations your paper gets, indicating generally, that your research is more influential.  This affects how likely it is for you to (fill in the blank): get a job, get tenure, get invited to give talks at meetings around the world, get a raise, get more grants, get more students, be more successful overall etc. Therefore, the higher the impact factor, the more likely it is for you to become a wildly famous (in the ideal) or successful (in reality) scientist.

paper

The first page of a publication I wrote about the DNASU plasmid repository published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research

Once the journal is decided upon, and the manuscript is reformatted to fit the requirements of that journal (which is a whole other pain in the butt sometimes requiring you to cut the manuscript length by 60%) you submit your manuscript and wait. And you may wait a long time.  I’m not a journal editor so I can’t provide all the insider details, but once at the journal there are  levels of review.  Internal reviews by the journal editors sending the manuscript out for review by other scientists in the field, additional editorial review, etc.  At each stage the manuscript can be rejected and each step takes time.

The manuscript reviewers take on an essential role in the scientific process. They help to ensure that the research is high quality and that the claims made in the paper are valid and supported by evidence. Any scientist can be a reviewers (I’ve reviewed a half a dozen manuscripts), but they should ideally have knowledge of the scientific topic being addressed in the manuscript. Typically each manuscript that is sent out to review to three scientists, and they each anonymously provide their comments back to you and to the editors.  This is where the process can get messy.  The reviewers could just flat out suggest your paper should be rejected or accepted.  Then again (and more likely), they may ask for edits – these can be as simple as fixing typos and adding a few clarifying sentences to doing years worth of additional experiments. And the reviewers may not agree – one reviewer could accept the manuscript, one could reject it and one could ask for edits.  It’s then up to the journal editor to decide what to do. For more about reviewers, check out this Sci Snippet about who these reviewers actually are and the crazy things they sometimes do and say.

When you get the reviews back, if your paper hasn’t been immediately accepted, you can choose to make edits, do the suggested experiments and resubmit to the same journal.  If this is your choice, just by re-submission, you are not guaranteed to have your paper accepted.  You may spend months doing experiments, just to have your manuscript rejected at the end of the day.  If the reviewer comments are too negative or the paper was rejected, you may realize that you set your sights too high and you should submit to a different journal that may have a higher likelihood of acceptance.  At that point, you start the review process all over again.

If this sounds frustrating to you, it is.  I have friends who have had papers in the review, edit, review process for over a year.  I have friends who have submitted papers over and over and haven’t been able to get them published. I also have friends that submit to a high profile journal and get accepted right out of the gate.  However, with the stakes being so high and affecting you scientific career so directly, the publishing process is a necessary frustration and if done correctly, can make your science and your research better.

 

7 Fun and Interesting Science Websites

I spend a lot of time on my computer; most of my day at work, a few hours when I get home, and every weekend writing this blog and working. Like everyone else, I have high hopes that I’ll focus and power through the day without surfing the web, but I fail miserably every time.  Besides my go-to fluffy news and fun sites (SlateNot Always Working, Dooce), I try, at the very least, to stay on topic and look at science-related website.  Often this means browsing the Table of Contents for hardcore science journals like Nature, Science or Cell, but more often lately, I’m looking at interesting general science websites with stories posted by my scientist friends on Facebook or Twitter. I realize that you, my readers, may not have hundreds of scientist friends regularly sharing  science posts, links and websites with you over social media, so I’ll share some today. Here are seven fun websites that I think you might enjoy.

IFLScience1. I F**king Love Science (IFLScience)

With 21 million followers on Facebook, I’m guessing you’ve heard of this one, but if not, it deserves a follow.  Although there has been some recent controversy about IFLScience posting inaccurate or misleading stories and then failing to correct them, overall this is a fun site that posts multiple times a day about topics from health to space an everything in between.

Ignobel2. Ig Nobel Awards  

Some people wait all year to find out who gets nominated for the Academy Awards and they throw Oscar parties to see who won.  As stereotypical as it may sound, I have that level of excitement for the Nobel Prize announcements. The Nobel website is great, but since I’m guessing you aren’t as obsessed with this yearly event as I am, I’m going to suggest the Ig Nobel Award website instead! Modeled after the Noble Prizes, these awards highlight improbable research that also makes you think. For example, this year the Ig Nobel for Medicine went to researchers in India for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork (aka bacon). REALLY FUNNY!

radiolab3. Radiolab

Technically Radiolab is a podcast on NPR, but they do have a website with archives of their podcasts. The two hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich are amazing storytellers who focus each of their episodes on a single topic like Sleep or Speed or Sperm. What’s so creative is how they use sound throughout their stories to bring the science to life. I saw them speak about science communication at a meeting, and they ended their presentation with a video that was created based on their episode about Death call Moments. Watch it. It’s incredible.

wired4. Wired Science Section

Wired is a magazine for nerds, and since I’m a total nerd, I love it. vWhat I like the most is that they weave an interesting story without forgoing the important details when dealing with complicated scientific topics, for example, the recent article on the genome editing system CRISPR. I know a lot about CRISPR and genome editing, and I didn’t feel like they watered the topic down, but it was still accessible to a non-scientific audience.

scientificamerican5. Scientific American

One of a few popular science magazines, this is the only one that I look at regularly The articles are fun to read plus in every issue they have a profile of a scientist, which I think is a pretty great way to help people get to know who scientists are as people.  Also, in honor of Jon Stewart leaving the Daily Show (*sigh*), they posted the Top 10 list of  best Science Moments from the show. What’s better than that for Daily Show withdrawal?

NYT6. The New York Times

I love the science section of The New York Times. Matt Ridley (who wrote one of my book club choices Genome), Carl Zimmer and Gina Kolata are only three of many fabulous science journalists who take the time to research a story extraordinarily well providing a real depth and understanding in their pieces.

sciencemag7. News sections for Nature and Science

I know that I said that Nature and Science are hardcore science-for-scientists website, but their News sections hit on the top stories of the week and are more accessible than the science articles.  They also compile in-depth special sections, like the recent “Ebola: Did we Learn?” that has articles about the new Ebola vaccine, what we learned from this ebola pandemic, and how we might respond better next time.

Why did I choose these websites and not others?  Mostly because they were the first that came to mind.  There are thousands of others, and many are listed on the sidebar of this blog. I will also post lists like this every so often so you can get more info about some of these sites.  And please share in the comments your favorite science websites!

Book Club – A Short History of Nearly Everything

short

Thanks to Amazon for the image

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a brilliant book. Bill Bryson is known for his travel writing and humorous writing style, but it this book he focuses his talents on explaining science. He starts at the beginning looking at the advent of our universe to understanding atoms and quarks to delving into our planet to the beginnings of life itself.  In particular, he has a chapter called “Cells” that provides one of the best descriptions of cell biology written for the public that I have ever read.  A few chapters later in “The Stuff of Life” he describes DNA and genetics in an equally accessible way.  This is one of the few popular science books that I would unreservedly suggest to anyone from ages 15 to 115.

The book won numerous, well-deserved awards including the 2004  Aventis Prize for best general science book and the 2005 EU Descartes Prize for science communication.  Please feel free to continue the conversation once you read the book by commenting below or by Asking me a Question.

For more Book Club books, click here.

What is it really like to be a woman in science?

Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt should have literally stuffed his foot in his mouth last week. Instead, in a room full of journalists, he informed everyone of the problem with having women in the lab: “Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry.”  The backlash has been both swift, fierce, and hilarious.  Tim Hunt resigned his post at the University College London and responded to the backlash on the BBC by saying that “he meant” the comments but was “really sorry.”  As absurd as his statements and his apology, his moronic comments have been a boon for female scientists (New York Times article describing the comments and the backlash here).  With the Twitter hashtag #DistractinglySexy, female scientists have come out in force to show the world how absurd his 18th Century views of women really are.  My favorite thus far is from @tracey_423 “after seeing tweet-pics of women scientists in field, my 14 yo daughter thinks being a scientist seems cool & fun

Considering this isn’t olden times, you may be surprised that anyone has these types of views anymore – much less is inane enough to express these views out loud, in front of other people. Or you may think that this is an isolated incident, but just over a month ago, a female researcher had a manuscript rejected because one reviewer decided that “It would probably … be beneficial to find one or two male biologists to work with (or at least obtain internal peer review from, but better yet as active co-authors)” to prevent the manuscript from “drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically biased assumptions.” (more details on Retraction Watch). Eventually, the reviewer was removed, but the appeal to the journal about publishing their paper is still pending.

scientistWith all of this insanity, what is it really like to be a women in science?  I can only speak from my experience and point-of-view.   I’m a young scientist and presumably blatant sexism and sex discrimination have decreased compared to some of my more senior female colleagues, but there have been moments… For example, when I was going to an donor event in New York City as a graduate student and asked a senior, male faculty member what was appropriate to wear and his response, “Nothing that shows your panty lines.” What could I possibly say in response?

The Big Bang Theory (Season 8 Episode 7 The Misinterpretation Agitation) starts an episode where Bernadette was picked as one of the fifty most beautiful scientists for an article in a magazine, and Amy emailed a complaint about the article since they would not have written about handsome male scientists and are objectifying women.  This hit strangely close to reality.  Another Nobel Laureate came up to me in the bar in grad school to suggest that we make a calendar featuring the “girls” at our much-esteemed institution.  I told him that I didn’t think that the successful, intelligent female faculty would want to be in a calendar or called “girls.”  His response, “Well then these aren’t the kind of girls we want in our calendar then, are they?”

Tim Hunt also mentioned crying. Biologically, when I get upset – including mad – sometimes that happens.  The singular example of this was at a committee meeting where one of my committee members looked at me and told me that I “have no f**king clue what I’m talking about.”  As I tried to explain that he was right because that information was owned by a company and they wouldn’t give it to me, I had a lot of trouble preventing the tears. Then again, if my tears are inappropriate, then swearing is equally so.

Although these are obvious examples of how women are treated in the laboratory, I’m not including the passing remarks about how young I look, questioning my scientific credentials (or just as bad, making me prove that my scientific background is impressive enough for you), or mentioning what I’m wearing.  These are too common, and would never once be directed towards a male scientist.

Although the focus of this post has been about the sexism that still persists in science, I have overall been fortunate.  As I have progressed through my career, I have had significantly more positive experiences in and outside of the laboratory than negative ones.  Male scientists have taught and mentored me more often than not, and I’m extremely grateful for this support.  Even though many times I have been the only woman in the room, I was listened to and valued (and let me tell you, not one of the men in the room fell in love with me or vice versa).

However as I think back on these incidents, I can see them now for the learning and growth experiences they were, but I don’t think that women need these types of learning experiences to succeed.  I didn’t have any female role models or mentors who could help me to handle any of these situations or to guide me through this sometimes difficult career path.  This is a well-known issue in science – the lack of senior female scientists (New York Times article talking about why there are still so few women in science) – and it’s one that doesn’t have an easy solution (though having people like Tim Hunt quit their jobs may be a great start).  Personally, I make mentoring female scientists a priority – so they can have something I didn’t – support in a sometimes difficult world.

 

 

 

Do you want to ask a question?

Often, when people find out that I’m a scientist, the first thing they do is ask me a question.  It may be about their family member who has cancer or about something they recently read in the news that was scientifically related. I’ve gotten questions about a drug they were recently (or about to be) prescribed or about what it’s like to be a scientist.  I’ve been asked to look up statistics about a disease or to talk to their child or grandchild about my career.  Since my Mom has the opportunity daily to ask me all of her scientific questions, I want to give you the opportunity too.  On my new “Ask A Question” page, you or your child or grandchild can send me a question.  I will respond personally (as soon as I can!!) and maybe even use your question to prompt a blog post.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

What is a blog?

One of my puppies, Indy, hanging out with us outside today

One of my puppies, Indy, hanging out with us outside today

I had high hopes today of writing many great and interesting things about genetics. But instead, I spent the day outside watching my puppies chase lizards, playing cards and enjoying the weather.  And if you are in New England (like my family is), I’m so sorry.  You should have spent spring break with me.

Speaking of my family, my family has been reading this blog since I started it.  This includes my Mom, who wants to comment on every post, but doesn’t want to post her name. I end up learning a lot from her and others non-blog-posted feedback, and the first thing I realized is that a lot of people don’t know what a blog is!!  Since my target audience is my mom and other people who may not read a lot of other blogs, I thought I’d take a moment to just describe a blog.

All of my journals from years and years of on and off writing

All of my journals from years and years of on and off writing

Blog is short for weblog.  Essentially any person who wants to talk about anything can start a blog online.  You could think of it as a public journal or an online method to express some type of viewpoint or convey certain information or even as a method to sell a product or idea. Usually blogs have a specific focus.  In my case, I have three main things I hope to accomplish with this blog:

  • Talk about science in a way that everyone can understand
  • Provide interesting books and links to websites that you can read to learn even more!
  • Tell stories about my journey and the lives of scientists so that when you hear the word “scientist”, you don’t first think of describing us as “mad” or imagine a photo of Einstein.

My favorite blogs are as diverse as they are addicting.  Some have to do with science, like I f**king love science or Pharyngula.  Some are associated with major online news magazines like Future Tense.  While others are mommyblogs like dooce that are a hilarious view of life with kids, but with a philanthropic edge. Because there are over 150 million blogs out there, everyone creates their blog a little differently and posts different things.  It’s like having 150 million different magazines at your fingertips (with varying levels of quality and content).

Now that you know what a blog is, what do you do about them?  If you find a blog that you like, you can bookmark the URL and check it out every once in a while to read whatever new things they have posted.  Many blogs are also linked to Facebook or Twitter pages.  You can follow this blog’s Facebook page here or my Twitter feed here.  Whenever I post something on this blog, it will automatically be posted to both Facebook and Twitter, and then you can click on the link to go and read the new post.  Or you can join the mailing list (look to the right side of the screen – there should be a place to sign up), which will email you whenever I post something new.

However you find this blog, I just hope you enjoy it and learn something.  And please don’t be afraid to post a comment or question! That’s what I’m doing this for!