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February (2)

PSA: It's cold, buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector.
Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cold Fusion
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Going back
Thursday, January 27, 2011

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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The 12 days of (Lab) Christmas
Friday, December 24, 2010

I really hope there isn't a number 3
Thursday, December 9, 2010

So why don't you have more papers?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Picking a project
Thursday, December 2, 2010
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As promised: Geeka and A Cow
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finishing something
Saturday, October 23, 2010

A cartwheeling Geeka
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Some Classroom got funded, I get embarrassed.
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Bounty for Donor's Choose
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If I couldn't be a scientist
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

That's not the shape of his head.
Friday, October 1, 2010
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Glutton for Punishment
Saturday, September 25, 2010

I talk to machines.
Friday, September 24, 2010

World's worst Journal Club.
Monday, September 20, 2010

The IACUC Chair
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hell, I did know then, I just didn't know it until it hit me.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stuff Geeka Likes: The Toys Edition
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
August (9)

How I ended up a scientist.
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monday morning crapped on my head.
Monday, August 23, 2010

Naming your equipment
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stuff Geeka Likes: Inaugural edition
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Silent Squee
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In which I come clean
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Having a bad day
Monday, August 9, 2010

My blogging philosophy
Friday, August 6, 2010

Balance? We don't need no stinking balance.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
July (5)
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Geeka

Hi! I'm Geeka. I've been a scientist for, I don't know, it seems like forever, I guess since I started college, so, like 15 years? Anyhow, this is where I'm going to give my take on a bunch of stuff. I'm usually a little bit out there (that is, I don't see the obvious at the outset), which means that you are probably going to have to deal with reading such topics as: Interpersonal relationship training for scientists, my lab pet peeves, how to get along in business when you just came straight out of academia, trying to deal with having a life and being a scientist, really odd topics for a paper, random stuff I found on the internet that made me shoot coffee out of my nose, you know, (ab)normal Geeka. Why the title? Because at the very heart of me, I'm a virologist, and while I don't necessarily do that now, it's how I view the scientific world.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

It can be said that my graduate program had, perhaps, the world’s worst journal club. Basically, it came down to Wednesday’s at noon one of us would get up and give a presentation on a paper that was super-specific to our discipline, there would be very few questions, and those would come from ass-kissing faculty, we’d eat some crappy pizza and then go back to lab.

At the start of every semester, there would be a general meeting, and we’d all bitch about how there wasn’t any talking. In fact, Jackass and I were notorious for taking our laptops to journal club (so that we could see the color pictures) and google chat. (I was once told by the head ass-kisser that we couldn’t do this anymore, and I told him that I thought it was wrong for me to come to Journal Club topless. He didn’t question me any more.) We’d try assigned topics, faculty mentors, no PowerPoint, all sorts of things, but what it really boiled down to was that people weren’t going to do anything that required talking, and people were going to pick articles that were close to their research.

This similarity to research was mostly upper level students, so in 16 weeks of JC, as we called it, we’d have 14 papers on HIV, 1 on Dendritic Cells, and 1 on Herpes. You’d think that all the HIV people would be able to muster a conversation. So one week, I thought that I was going to inspire discussion, and I chose a paper on how Adenovirus 36 makes people fat. After all, this had implication for Public Health and Virology.

This wasn’t a very good paper. It was poorly written, had only 4 or 5 figures, and it’s conclusions were very broad. I admit this. I wasn’t picking this paper because it was the pinnacle of all science; I chose it so that we could inspire discussion. I didn’t care if all people just bashing the paper, I just wanted to not get the blank stares.

The entire department was a little dumbfounded as to why I chose this paper. Even after I had explained that I picked it to inspire discussion, they were still confused. It was a failure. In fact, after the little discussion that it did inspire, all that could be said to me was “interesting” by the chairperson.

They’ve tried other things to inspire discussion. One was only papers from the top 3 journals in the field, there were a few others that evade me now.

The thing is, every time they reference the worst paper ever presented; it’s that Ad36 paper. I guess we get punished for trying to make things better.


An aside: The only time that JC was entertaining, was when the chair would let go with some sort of non-sequitur. One of these, and perhaps my favorite, was when someone was presenting a paper on genetic sharing between bacteria. The chair, during a moment of silence, says “Sex Bubbles”. We all stare at him. He continues, “Sex Bubbles, you know, sex bubbles.” Jackass and I are losing it over google chat at this point, we are eluding to foam parties. The chair keeps saying it over and over again, because in absence of any explanation, we are all suddenly going to get what he means if he just repeats it. Finally, someone figures out what he means, and explains it to the rest of us. It was one of those times where you look at the person that’s leading you, and think, “I’m nuts for being here.”

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Blog Comments

Februa
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Ummm....I think I might trump you for worlds worst journal club, as ours is pretty much exactly what you write, only without the crappy pizza. Man, Id complain so much less if I got free crappy pizza. As it stands, Im *mandated* to go, as if grad students in my dept were not forced to attend, they never would, and then no one would be there as most faculty gave up years ago. I feel your pain.

Prof-like Substance
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Wow, sad really. Journal club should be something that people can get into and get excited about. If it's a whole department staring at each other, why are you there? Sounds like they need an overhaul.

Genomic Repairman
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We do debate style with people arguing for and against an article and it turns into a throw down. Everyone is interested and we rotate sides each week. Gotta try it out.

antipodean
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I'm guessing you guys have too much time on your hands if you can continue this charade in a research department. Seriously, why bother presenting if nobody has the intellectual ability to ask a question or two?
scicurious

Guest Comment
Hmmm...Ok, every J Club I have ever heard of or participated in has been like this, and everyone says that we should be having these PASSIONATE discussions and intriguing conversations. I'm starting to wonder if those people are living in a dreamworld, though the debate style has a lot of promise...

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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We had a forced journal club the first two years of grad school at Iowa. It was like pulling teeth to get people to engage and discuss. It got so bad that the "class" became graded and you got points for asking questions and participating. It was really hard to get an A.

The best journal clubs I've been in have been small and field specific where everyone is passionate about a single topic. The format that worked best for us was that everyone read the paper and then volunteered to cover a figure or two during the presentation. We'd just project the figures in powerpoint and someone would lead a 2-3 slide intro presentation to give background on the paper.

The debate style seems interesting. What do you do if the paper is really good and you have to be on the prosecution side??

Nikkilina
Washington University School of Medicine
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Ours was really good. Each semester we would have a topic that we voted on. The presenter for the week was to give background and explain any techniques that were new or just obscure. Everyone else was expected to explain a figure in the paper and dissect its implications. You were graded on attendance and participation, so it was a huge pain in the ass to have all the extra work, but in the end it turned out to be one of the most beneficial classes I ever took.

Dr. O
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Our journal clubs are hit-or-miss, and it really seems to depend who shows up. We've had some fabulous grad students and postdocs in the department that really get the conversation going, and the bad (but not awful) papers also seem to inspire quite a bit of discussion. Then there are the duds, when not many people show up, the paper is boring with no obvious flaws, and I generally feel like stabbing my eyes out.

One thing that might help: the presenters for our afternoon JCs bring beer, which usually loosens the jaws up a bit.

Nikkilina
Washington University School of Medicine
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@Dr. O - So your JC isn't required? Our department required that we attend every semester through the whole PhD.

Prof-like Substance
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I think department-wide journal clubs are going to fail, because it's just too broad. You need a smaller, more focused group so that the discussion can move at a reasonable pace and everyone can follow it. Otherwise, it's just torture.

Nikkilina
Washington University School of Medicine
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@Prof - It was a department requirement, but each area of emphasis had their own JC which were all run differently. Ours was the biochem JC, and it was run differently than all the others.

Dr. O
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@Nikkilina - They're supposedly required for grad students and heavily recommended for postdocs and faculty, but nobody really enforces that rule. Additionally, we have 2-3 journal clubs scheduled every week, plus departmental seminar, plus whatever else might be going on outside the department, so I think many people miss just so they can get lab work done.

@PLS - I agree that the department-wide JCs are not the best idea. Not just because of how broad they are, but because it's difficult to enforce attendance. On the other hand, one of the reasons our department has so many JCs per week was to deal with our different sub-specialties. Having so many has ended up causing the attendance issues we have. A class that the students sign up for and get graded on seems, IMO, to be a better idea.

Evie
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Nice try on your part, very cool. Too bad it didn't pick up though.
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