school

A bully, plain and simple

Wow.

You know, I certainly understand the concept that not every stupid thing someone says is worth responding to. It’s the reason why I don’t devote a post to every time Ken Ham or Focus on the Family update their blogs. I also understand that sometimes people post terrible things with the sole intention of getting you riled up, and responding probably gives them some sort of smug satisfaction.

But sometimes, even the craziest of tirades deserved to be shared. Not because I think I’ll change the mind of the writer, but because people deserve to see what pure, unhinged, vitriol looks like.

This is a message to me from Abbie Smith of the blog ERV, with my response:

btw, my response to Jen:

Jen–
Rebecca Watson is a loser. She leeches off the skeptical movement to exist. Its disgusting.

You have (had?) potential to be more. And you are flushing it down the toilet.

You are in graduate school. That is your job. You spend way too much time going to these stupid conferences (hey, like Skepticon this weekend), that are not even tangentially related to your job (contrary to what you wrote in the small portion of your proposal I read).

Indeed, graduate school is my job. It is not, however, slavery. I thought you would understand that since you’re also a biology graduate student, but maybe they’re particularly rough over at the University of Oklahoma. You see, people – even graduate students – are allowed to have free time. Yes, we’re allowed to unshackle ourselves from the lab bench and head home for dinner. Some of us will read books or watch movies. Some will head out for beers with friends and coworkers. Some will even – gasp! – take vacations. We are allowed to have lives, and hobbies.

It’s intriguing that you claim I spend way too much time at these conferences, since you don’t know my schedule at all. Like how I purposefully did not schedule any speaking engagements for August, September, October, and early November because I knew I would have to spend extra time preparing for my Research Reports departmental presentation and the NSF fellowship proposal. Or how I’m not scheduling anything January through February because I’m preparing for my committee meeting and have to, as my 2nd year PhD student duties, run graduate student recruitment weekends. Or how I never schedule speaking events in back to back weeks, because I wouldn’t have the time. Or how if I have to miss a half day or day of work for travel, that I make up the time earlier that week or while traveling (which I can do since my project is currently completely computational).

But I’m sure all of the graduate students who decide to attend skeptical conferences will be glad to know that you have deemed them to be a waste of time.

And as for them not being “even tangentially related to my job”… Are you really saying that communicating science is not related to being a scientist? Would you say the same thing to students who spend their weekends helping with science fairs, or giving talks to classrooms or the community? I, like many scientists, want to be more than a pipetting machine.

These speaking engagements have given me much more practical experience in public speaking than most graduate students ever get, and it shows. I am consistently told by multiple professors in my department how excellent my speaking abilities are, and how clearly I can communicate my research.

You are behaving in an utterly unprofessional manner, posting pics of seminars you attend making fun of them, accusing your professors and classmates of being anti-science. The portion of your proposal I read was horrible, to the point of being shockingly horrible for someone of your education and writing experience. It bears absolutely no resemblance to my NIH proposal (which was funded).

This is a drastic distortion of what I’ve talked about here. Yes, I giggled at some particularly horrendous slides from a single seminar (not seminars) that the department as a whole was publicly cracking up about. And I have never accused my professors and classmates of being anti-science. I explained how because of the religious culture surrounding creationism, even some evolution-accepting scientists become uneasy about aggressively supporting evolution.

And while your comments about my proposal were probably meant to hurt my feelings and pad your ego (you got funding, good for you), it just makes me laugh. For one, the NIH fellowships don’t require a personal statement at all, unlike the NSF fellowships. And I explicitly stated my excerpt was from my personal statement, where you are required to talk about your motivation for becoming a scientist and doing outreach.

Second of all, it’s ludicrous that you think you can judge a 6 page application from two paragraphs of a personal statement. A draft personal statement that I openly admitted still needed revision, nonetheless. Unless you’ve been hacking into my computer and reading my finished application, I’ll just assume you’re bitterly taking pot shots. Especially since multiple professors and classmates have told me my application is excellent and very well written.

Which brings me to the worst part of your behavior, and why I know you are well on your way to becoming a professional loser– your proposal sucked, and you blamed your critique on your colleagues supposed anti-science. Youve already said your proposal isnt going to get funded ‘because youre an atheist’ or something stupid like that. And do I remember right, you didnt get into Harvard ‘because youre an atheist’ too, right? When you were properly chastised for behaving inappropriately and unprofessionally, you declared that it was because they couldnt handle you speaking out. Poor you for fighting the system! Career suicide! Bitch, please. I killed a Godfather of Retrovirology, and Ive still got a career (technically, it opened up locked doors for me). Heaven forbid your brain entertain the thought, for a moment, that you just fucked up. You are too stuck up your own ass to take responsibility for your own actions. Youre too old for this kind of immaturity.

My brain almost exploded from the irony that the same person who’s writing an unprovoked diatribe and coined the phrase “Rebecca Twatson” is the one calling me immature.

I’ve never said my proposal isn’t going to get funded because I’m an atheist, or that I didn’t get into Harvard because I’m an atheist. I don’t know why I ultimately didn’t get accepted to Harvard after my interview. And if I don’t get the NSF, it’s probably going to be because they don’t always like discovery based research without clear alternative hypotheses. My point in writing those posts is that I hate that I even have the inkling in the back of my brain that it may be because I’m an atheist. Because sadly, that shit happens. I know people who have lost their jobs because they were atheists, so I can’t help but worry and wonder. It’s one of the reasons I’m an activist – because I don’t think people should ever have to wonder that, even for a fleeting second.

But you can continue thinking I’m a sucky scientist with no social skills who can never admit she’s wrong. I don’t care, because I know it’s not true, and I know the people around me know it’s not true. I’ve demonstrated multiple times on my blog that I’ll edit, clarify, or even remove posts when I find conflicting evidence. I’ve greatly changed my talks because of feedback people have given me when they dispute certain points. And hell, in grad school I’m excited when I’m actually right. Classes challenge the way you think and what you think you know, and professors and classmates constantly challenge your data and interpretations. It’s how science works.

Oh, but right, I suck at that. Moving on.

If you went to my uni and you were in my department, you would be kicked out this coming Spring. And it would have had jack shit to do with your atheism.

But I am not your mother and you are not my problem. If you want to bitch on the internet for a living, more power to you. But you need to deal with the fact that people are going to call you a loser if that is what you choose to do with your life. Because you will be.

If you want to grow the fuck up and be a professional scientist, I would be happy to have you and happy for you.

But I just dont think its going to happen.

The irony of someone bitching on the internet about how I shouldn’t bitch on the internet.

It’s great to know that you would fire me just because you dislike a couple of things I’ve said about feminism (even though you apparently used to think I was awesome), and that you would make that decision knowing literally nothing about my academic achievements. How about the NIH training grant that I’m currently on? How about my two published papers? My grades? Work ethic? Scientific ability at all?

Nope, you know nothing, but you’d be childish enough to fire me.

You’re worried about my ability to become a professional scientist? I’m worried that you will become a professional scientist. We don’t need people who are so divorced from reality that they go on public, outrageous, denigrating rants. I’ll be the first to say that sometimes I can be a bit blunt, or rude, or abrasive. I don’t mince words when I have something to say. But what I’ve never been described as is pointlessly mean. Mean to the point where it’s frankly scary.

But really, it just makes me sad. I used to love your blog, but after “Elevator-gate” you did a Jekyll and Hyde. I can forgive people for occasionally saying something dumb or sexist or mean. But your cruelty isn’t occasional – it’s become an unhealthy obsession, with you lashing out like this at many different people. It’s not my place to psychoanalyze you on my blog, but I sincerely hope you find peace somehow. It’s one thing to strongly disagree with someone, it’s another to say stuff like this.

Accepting evidence is not dogmatic

Update: I have decided to restore this post with some minor edits. I will write more about my decision to do so in another post, since I think the topic of self censorship in terms of the social structure of academia is an interesting topic.

Hrmph.

I’m frustrated. As I talked about before, I’m working on my NSF Graduate Fellowship proposal. Part of this process is getting a ton of students and professors to critique your paper. I honestly shouldn’t be too annoyed, because overall the reviews of my proposal have been very good. But a critique that I got from many – but not the majority of – my reviewers happens to be a major pet peeve of mine.

I was too “dogmatic.”

The offending part was the opening paragraphs of my personal statement. I’ll post it here for full disclosure:

            “College was a bit of a culture shock for me. I grew up in a nurturing environment that embraced science – Bill Nye the Science Guy was the program of choice, and competing in Science Olympiad was cool. But when I moved a tad farther south into the heartland of Indiana for my undergraduate education at Purdue University, I quickly realized this was not a universal truth. The attitude toward evolution was terrible amongst non-scientists on campus. One of the local churches was a major donor to the infamous Creation Museum in Kentucky, activists handed out anti-evolution tracts on the main quad, and anti-evolution letters in the campus newspaper were commonplace. I was shocked to learn that even many of my fellow biology majors did not accept evolution.

The fact that so many people didn’t share my fascination with evolutionary theory troubled me on a personal level. This wasn’t simply someone disagreeing with how I earned a paycheck: Learning about evolution was the key event that led me to adopt a skeptical, naturalistic worldview. I felt like people were rejecting the ideals that shape my humanist ethics. I wanted others to understand my feelings of awe as I contemplate the universe, or how lucky I feel to have evolved the necessary traits to contemplate the universe in the first place. I quickly learned that many of these people still valued science, but never had the opportunity to become educated about evolution.

That realization motivated my passion for science communication and mentoring. […]”

Now, I’m not claiming that’s perfect. It’s a draft that can obviously still do with some tweaking. And I realize I have to walk on egg shells and be politically correct if I actually want to get funded. It doesn’t matter if I’m being honest or if I’m technically right if I happen to get three Christian biologists who read this as a belligerent attack against their belief. Which is apparently how it came off to my reviewers.

Fine. Whatever. I don’t read it that way, but I guess I can see how you can read it to be negative. I thought I was being as diplomatic as I could possibly be, but apparently it’s still not diplomatic enough – I’ll have to change some of the wording.

If we would have stopped at “This could potentially be interpreted negatively,” I would not have been writing this post. But it didn’t. Some of my reviewers, including a professor, insisted that I was “dogmatic,” and “wanted people to believe in evolution just because that’s what you happen to believe in.” That rejecting evolution isn’t a “terrible” attitude. That I shouldn’t be “shocked” that some biology majors don’t believe in evolution, because not everyone has to be like me. That wanting to help people learn about evolution means I thought they were stupid.

That I came off as, I quote, “Dawkins-esque.”

I think that was supposed to be negative remark, but I took it as a compliment.

I fumed the whole bus ride home, wishing I could have responded then and there – but a meeting for a review of your work is not the place for a philosophical debate. But these are things I hear over and over – not just from professors and classmates I like and respect who accept evolution but think I’m too “dogmatic” about promoting it. Because they’re so common, I feel that it’s important that I address those types of ideas here.

1. Wanting people to adopt an evidence-based view of the universe is not dogmatic. In fact, it’s the very opposite of dogma. I want people to be able to change their minds when confronted with new evidence. Admitting you were wrong is one of the most intellectually honest things you can do. The only “dogmatic” thing about living in reality is that some things are true, and some things are not. You don’t get to flap your arms and start flying through the air just because you wish that was the way the universe works.

2. I don’t want people to “believe in evolution because that’s what I believe in.” I want people to accept evolution because there’s an insurmountable mountain of evidence supporting it. This isn’t a subjective opinion that’s up for debate. I’m not forcing people to think that chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls is the best flavor (though it totally is). To deny evolution is either based on ignorance or willful delusion. I know, what mean words. That doesn’t make them less true. People have either not learned about evolution or not had it explained to them well, or they’re people who go and build Creation Museums and think people walked with dinosaurs because of their religious convictions. There may be less hope at getting the latter to accept evolution, but being a science educator is important to me, and I want to tackle the “ignorance” side of that equation.

In my future draft, I plan to explicitly say that I accept evolution because of that mountain of evidence. I thought that would be self-evident to biologist NSF reviewers, but might as well be safe…

3. Rejecting evolution is certainly a “terrible” attitude. Again, why should we pat people on the back for ignoring scientific facts?

4. We don’t give chemistry degrees to people who believe in alchemy. We don’t give aerospace engineering degrees to people who think planes are held up by fairies. We don’t give geology degrees to people who think the Earth is made of chocolate pudding.  But we have no problem giving biology degrees to people who think an invisible supernatural being created life, despite it having as much evidence as Puddingology. I should feel shocked that people who reject the fundamental concepts of their field can still successfully earn a degree.

5. I don’t think that everyone who rejects evolution is stupid. I do, however, think they are wrong. Those things are not equivalent. And when ignorance – the lack of information – is the cause of their rejection, that can be fixed. And should be fixed – but apparently it’s dogmatic to think people should be educated.

Why do I even need to have this discussion? Why, if I had proposed educating people about gravity or plate tectonics, would there have been no debate? Why would any other drive to educate be seen as positive, rather than dogmatic? Why are we expected to roll over and simply accept that some people are going to ignore the fact of evolution?

Because religion is protected in our culture. Telling someone they’re wrong is “dogmatic” if it’s contradicting their religious beliefs even if, you know, they’re wrong. Mincing words and avoiding hurt feelings is more important than education and reality.

Religion does not deserve this special status. We don’t have to tiptoe around, pretending the universe bends to their wishes when all of the evidence says otherwise.

Of course, I have to wonder if this whole “dogmatic” thing came up because later in my personal statement I mention my involvement with some secular organizations. They were relevent – I talk about various pro-science events we’ve done, and the organizational and leadership skills I’ve gained from them. Or if it came up because these people aren’t reading my proposal in a vacuum – they all know I’m a strident, outspoken atheist in my free time. Even if I don’t say that in my proposal and I mince words as much as possible, that knowledge still colors their interpretation. Without the atheism side, would my drive to educate about evolution have been a problem? Did my classmates who mentioned teaching students about evolution in their applications get called dogmatic?

I hate that I even have to wonder about it.

What the hell did I just watch?

Every Wednesday my department has an hour long seminar with an invited speaker. I feel like I should preface this post with an explanation that our speakers are generally very good. Sometimes I’m personally bored out of my mind, but that’s because we’re a diverse department and occasionally things will be completely out of my field and realm of comprehension. But every once in a while we get someone particularly wacky or nonsensical that leaves the whole audience baffled.

Today was one of those days.

The only thing keeping me sane was livetweeting the madness and texting other students suffering with me, which I will reproduce here for your pleasure.

Jen: “I have no clue what is happening during this seminar”

Jen: “Speaker: “huh, you can’t see that for shit. Oh well.” I have no idea what is happening right now”

He then went on a three minute tangent about how one of his lab techs was a brilliant physicist who went into hedge funds instead because it paid ten times as much money as research.

Jen: “I’ve been in this seminar for 20 minutes and I still don’t know what it’s about”

At this point my friend pointed out that the speaker was holding about 20 feel of microphone wire bundled up in a mess, even though the mic was clipped to the collar of his shirt. And it got progressively disheveled as the talk went on. I could not look away.

Jen: “Started listening again when he said “straight as the pope.” I do not know context. I do not know if there was context”

The line on the graph was not very straight. The same friend texted me saying he heard me laugh at that from across the room.

Jen: “WTF is this? This slide is a crime against humanity”

Jen: “This diagram looks like it was sketched on a napkin and scanned ahahahhaha”


Jen: “Oh god, he’s going over the time and there hasn’t even been Q&A yet”

The fact that an established professor spoke for 75 minutes and none of us came out knowing the topic of his talk says a lot. I’m not sure what, though. That when you get established you stop giving a fuck? That eccentric scientists tend to be successful? That the fact that I just spend four pages of my NSF proposal saying how wonderful I am at communicating science to my peers and the general public was a complete waste of time? Or maybe that we now have to write four pages about our communication skills exactly because there are people like this that are eventually going to retire, and we want someone who can give a coherent talk to replace them?

My brain, it hurts.

The godless résumé gamble

If you’re a first or second year grad student, you’re probably working on your application for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (…Or you should be, but instead you’re blogging about it). It’s a prestigious fellowship to acquire that comes with a number of perks, including access to special databases and networks – and a nice stipend increase, which makes us grad students drool.

The application consists of three two-page sections: your Research Proposal, your Past Research Experience, and your Personal Statement.” The Personal Statement generally causes the most headache and stress. It’s your main chance to set yourself apart from other students, since you can assume that most people who are in graduate school have the research part down, or at least have people in their lab who can help. But editors can’t magically send you back in time to teach classes, work with diversity programs, be an officer in clubs, volunteer in an elementary school science fair, or fly to Africa to help AIDs ridden children. That’s what the Personal Statement is about – showing your leadership, organizational skills, strength of character, and motivation for being a scientist.

As unfair as it is, if you just like sitting in a lab all day, you’re kind of screwed. You have to do it all.

But every time I have to write one of these things, I start getting worried. Many of my achievements are directly related to atheism. I founded and was president of an atheist student group. I’m on the board for a secular non-profit. I write a popular blog that, while talking about science, also often talks about atheism. When I go speaking across the country, I’m usually hosted by atheist groups. And hell, my very motivation for being a scientist is highly interrelated with my atheism. Learning about evolution led me to a naturalistic, godless worldview, and said worldview makes science and the search for truth even more important to me.

I still wonder if I was ultimately rejected from graduate schools – after very successful interviews – because someone in the chain of command was wary of my atheist activism. But I feel like to omit these things would mean not being true to myself. Not to mention, it hides the achievements that set me apart from other graduate students.

But mentioning godlessness is still a gamble. The NSF fellowship reviews are already a bit of a crapshoot – reviewers only have a couple of minutes to read your application and make a decision. You’re already hoping you’re lucky enough to get someone who had a good breakfast and isn’t in a cranky mood. But now you have to hope you don’t get the rare super devout biologist, or even a fellow atheist who doesn’t like her vocal sisters.

And the gamble is there no matter how diplomatically you put it. There’s always a chance someone will read what you wrote profoundly negatively. Four of my peers read my statement and had no problem with it – but another said I sounded like a “belligerent atheist” despite the fact that they personally agreed with me. And despite the fact that what I actually talk about was skepticism, naturalism, and scientific inquiry, with passing references to secularism and humanism when mentioning specifics. And despite the fact that the only time I actually say the word “atheist” is in the sentence:  “Also during my time at Purdue, I co-founded the Society of Non-Theists, a student organization that provided a safe place for atheists and agnostics, a minority on campus.”

Gasp! So belligerent!

This is a shining example of the privilege religion has in our country. I know for a fact that three other students in my department mention their involvement with religious organizations. But would anyone ever think of telling them to cut those examples of leadership out because they’re associated with religion? No, nor should they. So why is it okay to tell the atheist to tone down the atheism?

At least I have it easy, being in a field that’s already fairly godless. We had club officers who had to leave off their main leadership experience because they felt there was no way they’d get a teaching or financial job with “atheist” branded on their résumé. And that’s simply unfair.

Support Freethought Blogs by helping teachers and their students

Donors Choose is an amazing charity that helps fund projects for public school classrooms across the US. The fact that we need such a charity to make sure our children receive a proper education is depressing. Some classrooms, especially in areas with high poverty, don’t have the money to provide supplies as basic as pencils for their students – students who are on state subsidized lunches which may be the only decent meal they get all day. Others want their students to experience the same inspiring projects – like dissections or growing your own garden – as affluent schools, but need extra help. Donor’s Choose vets the projects to make sure they’re not a scam, and you make a donation to improve the education of these young students.

This cause is especially important to me for two reasons. One, both of my parents were teachers (they’re now retired). My dad taught high school history and special ed in a Chicago public school for 38 years, and my mom taught middle school art for over 30 years. I know they always went above and beyond for their classroom, and I can only imagine how much they spent out-of-pocket for extra supplies to enrich their teaching experience. Two, I was lucky enough to attend a very affluent school system. I want all students to have the chance to have the same experiences I did, because I know those experiences shaped me into a freethinker, a scientist, and a thoughtful human being.

It’s also a bit of a competition. All of the science blogging networks are competing against each other. Let’s show places like Science Blogs and Scientopia that Freethought Blogs is the awesomest! Or show the other Freethought Bloggers that Blag Hag is the awesomest of the awesomest – you can donate using the widget over at the top of the right column.

I’ve hand-picked the projects because they have some sort of personal meaning to me. You can donate to whichever fits your fancy, but in case you’re motivated by my reasoning, read on:

  • Building a Community of Learners Through Mosiac – Like I mentioned, my mother was an art teacher. Art is a huge part of my life, and it truly enriched my learning experience. I found it helped me with science, too – it made me a creative thinker, helped me plan ahead (art projects aren’t always spontaneous!), and gave me graphical abilities that really helps when it comes to presenting your research. This project is also near my home town in Indiana.
  • Science Olympiad Rocks! – Science Olympiad is an academic competition that I competed in for 4 years, and later volunteered for when I was in college. Students participate in events ranging from tests on genetics, to building a bottle rocket, to forensic investigation. SO was some of the most fun I had in high school, and was one of the main things that motivated me to become a scientist.
  • Fetal Pig Dissection – I’m not going to lie. When I was in AP Biology, the Fetal Pig Dissection grossed me out. But looking back I recognize how valuable it is to have hands-on science experiences like this. Life isn’t something you can learn by just staring at a text book. Bonus: It’s a class of all girls, and we need more lady scientists!
  • Women and Hands-on Science – Speaking of lady scientists… Heck, do I even have to explain? More lady scientists. MORE!
  • Help Deserving Student Have a True Biology Experience – Time to dissect some frogs! I still remember mine – it was full of eggs.
  • The Magic of Math – Help another all-girls classroom fall in love with mathematics. I wish I would have had something like this when I was younger – I grew up hating math because I was so frustrated while learning it. Maybe if someone had taken a chance and tried a different teaching method like this teacher is doing…
  • Let’s See – This classroom goes on monthly nature walks – how awesome is that?! Help make their trips more awesome by providing them with magnifying glasses and microscopes, so they can get extra close in their explorations.
  • Encouraging Girls to Excel at Mathematics – You know the drill.
  • You Spin Me ‘Round – Dude, this classroom wants to perform its own polymerase chain reaction! I didn’t do PCR until after my freshman year of college. Having hands on experience with genetic fingerprinting will hopefully show these students how awesome genetics is. It’s not just about Punnett Squares!
  • Drosophila Genetics – More awesome genetics experiments! This time the kids get to breed their own fruit flies and look for mutants. MUTANTS! What high schooler doesn’t want to do that?
  • Grow With Science – Okay. Sometimes I harp on how plants are boring. But this was the ONLY proposal on the whole site to mention “natural selection.” I feel like we should reward this teacher so they can have their garden for evolution experiments! Bonus – they’re in Seattle!
  • Those Genes Look Good! – Genetics is a hard concept to understand. You can’t exactly see genes with the naked eye. I know models helped me understand concepts, so help these kids understand too.
  • Evolution Literacy – A primary school teacher who understands the importance of evolution? FUND THIS CLASSROOM STAT!
  • Leaping Lizards! – This classroom in Indiana wants to raise anoles to help them learn about the scientific method. I wish I learned about the scientific method using a tank of cute lizards.
  • Manipulate This! – This classroom is from my home town in Indiana, and they want hands on tools to learn about math. Math didn’t start to click for me until my 5th grade teacher whipped out little cubes and pawns we could manipulate to balance equations. Some of us our visual learners!
  • Highlight Your Learning – Last but not least, this teacher has created a Writer’s Workshop to encourage a love in writing in their students. As a blogger, how could I not support this? It’s also one of the neighboring towns from where I grew up.
Again, you can use the widget to the right or go here to donate. Donations are open until October 22. Thanks so much for helping out!

The perception of female graduate students

Guy in bar: So, what brought you to Seattle?
Me: I just started grad school
Guy: What are you studying?
Me: Genetics
Guy: Oh, I would have thought it would be more shallow-like
Me: … *eyes bug out*

While I think the details are irrelevant, I feel compelled to add that I wasn’t wearing anything that could be even remotely perceived as “shallow-like.” Jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup. Nope, I just had boobs.

My interview with Teen Skepchick

My interview with Mindy of Teen Skepchick is now online for your viewing pleasure. We focus a lot on my journey from atheism to desperate spirituality back to atheism throughout my childhood, thoughts for students and student leaders, art, sex, and a pep talk for young scientists. Some stuff I haven’t really blogged about here in depth, so go check it out!

A new religious type of RNA discovered?

The backstory, from reader Arctic Ape, a Finnish graduate student:

Adjacent pic is from a whiteboard in a student clubroom at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry (or, as we call it, “Wood & Weed Science”). Someone had drawn a crude chart of plant floral induction pathway and another(?) person had made some additions, including labeling “mRNA” as “missionary RNA”. I thought your readers might want to explain in comments what exactly is “missionary RNA” :)

Missionary RNA…I wonder what it does? Maybe this is the mechanism behind gene conversion *ba dum ching* (For the non-biologists, the correct label is “messenger RNA”)


I loved Arctic Ape’s PS:

(By the way, almost all our student clubs are curriculum-related, but we’re still mostly not huge nerds. For example, the rest of the whiteboard featured a poop joke in Finnish.)

Poop jokes: A universal staple in graduate student humor.

This is post 21 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Indiana does something right for a change!

They’re no longer requiring students to be taught cursive writing in public schools. Instead, students will learn to be proficient at typing.
The smug 5th grader in me wants to write my former teacher and say, “Ha! So much for ‘You need to know this if you want to get into college. You’ll have to use cursive every day there!'” Preferably I’d write it in cursive, to illustrate how my cursive handwriting still looks like that of a 5th grader thanks to never using it.

Anyway, congratulations Indiana on this progressive achievement. Now, if only you’d join us in the 21st century in regards to other issues. You know, little things like women’s health, gay marriage, fair teacher pay…

(Via Joe My God)

I’m alive!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Tuesday was my big end of the quarter research presentation, which means Tuesday night was my post-presentation celebration, and Wednesday was my recovery from my post-presentation celebration.
And right now I’m sitting in the Seattle airport, attempting to go back home to Indiana for a week. I say attempting because my flight is already delayed two hours thanks to thunderstorms in Chicago. Ahh, the midwest.
So…posts may be a little filler-y while I’m decompressing. My brain needs to be turned off for a bit before starting up summer research. Seriously, I know I’m stressed when I’m looking forward to going back to Indiana.

Consider this an open thread. What are you up to? What neat things have you read on the internet? Is there anything that could defeat a velociraptor with machine gun arms?

Let’s hope this is a non-issue…

But I’m wary. Every time I say that about someone’s personal religious beliefs, they end up becoming an issue. The newest potential cause for drama? The University of Washington (where I go to school) finally decided on it’s new President – Michael K. Young. The thing that set off red flags? He’s a graduate of Brigham Young University and devout Mormon (which is probably redundant to say).

Now, I know it’s entirely possible to be religious and not let your beliefs interfere with your job at a secular university. I don’t expect his first act as university president to be increasing the number of Mormon missionaries that hunt you down on Red Square, or to expand the campus LDS center that’s right by my building.

But when I read stuff like the following, I get a little worried:

In order to understand genuinely the world and all the things that we learn from secular sources, we should start the inquiry first from the perspective of the gospel and its basic truths. The rest of the world then begins to make much more sense. It isn’t so much that secular learning necessarily confirms the truth of the gospel in every instance, though I am frequently surprised with just how often it does exactly that, but rather that we much better understand the world and everything in it when we put the secular learning in a gospel context. In other words, if one first seeks the light of Christ and inspiration from the Lord, then inquiries about matters of science, politics, economics, history, indeed, society in general, are not only entirely acceptable, but likely to lead to a better understanding of the gospel and a stronger, not weaker, testimony. If we seek first the kingdom of God, then indeed all things will be added unto it.

Ah yes…the world makes so much more sense when you start with Mormon!Jesus. I’m sure all the non-Mormon researchers certainly appreciate that sentiment.

Please let the next 4 years be perfectly boring and free of blog fodder.

Another quarter has started

Which means I’ll be geeking away with new classes!

Proteomics – This will be interesting, mainly because I know nothing about it. Well, I mean, I know what proteins are, but I’m not familiar studying them in a large-scale way. We’ll see how it goes.

Introduction to Statistical Genomics – Just an introductory statistics course, so it shouldn’t be too bad. I heard it’s pretty similar to what I took in undergrad, so it’ll mostly help me actually remember what I once learned.

Science Communication – I’m really excited about this class! It’s about communicating science to the general public through science journalism, blogging, and public speaking – could I have found a better class for me? I’m taking it as an elective since it’s offered through the Communication Department instead of Genome Sciences. It should be a blast, and hopefully improve my science blogging abilities!

I also have our “Journal Club” training class – basically prepares us to give a less sucky presentation to the department later in the quarter. I’m not too worried since I’m a sick, twisted person who does public speaking for fun, so it should be alright.