You are not using a standards compliant browser. Because of this you may notice minor glitches in the rendering of this page. Please upgrade to a compliant browser for optimal viewing:
Internet Explorer 7
Safari (Mac and PC)
Post Archive
2020 (0)2011 (4)
February (2)

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

Cold Fusion
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
January (2)

Going back
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fun with Jackass
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
2010 (33)
December (4)

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
November (2)October (7)

As promised: Geeka and A Cow
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finishing something
Saturday, October 23, 2010

A cartwheeling Geeka
Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Classroom got funded, I get embarrassed.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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
September (6)

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)
Blogger Profile


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.

Blog RSS Feed
RSS Add to My Yahoo Add to Google
Views: 6326 | Comments: 12
Last by co2 detector on May 01, 2011, 1:46pm
I'm not feeling all that great. I currently have whatever lab plague is going around. I'm have a bit of trouble concentrating. Some people would suggest that I go home and get some rest, but a) I don't want to waste PTO on being sick, and b) I'm not sick enough that I'm just going to go to sleep, which means I would go home and still try to do things, which is my style.

It's been unreasonably cold in my neck of the woods for some time. I'm pretty sure that's probably the case for most of the readers here. So I'm going to do a short PSA. Buy a carbon monoxide alarm. Use it. If you have one, make sure the batteries are fresh. Most of all, make sure the thing makes a god-awful noise that will wake you up and/or be annoying enough that your neighbors can also hear.

When I was 5, my mom and I almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Basically what happens, is that the heme group that holds oxygen in your blood has a greater affinity for carbon monoxide, so you essentially suffocate. It was unseasonably cold the year I was 5, we were living in a small apartment, and my mom was doing some weatherproofing. She plastic sheeted all of the windows, made draft snakes for the doors, essentially she tried to make sure that the heat wasn't escaping the apartment. What she did . . . More
Views: 801 | Comments: 6
Last by AlynAlyxWest on Feb 02, 2011, 11:06am
When I was a n00b in the lab, my rotation project was to clone our gene of interest into a dsRed vector, but I had to clone in an acceptor site, and put a 3X flag in the sequence. Because this was hard for a N00b, it took me 6 weeks, and I went through a lot of agar plates. (after 6 months in the lab, the same damn thing took me a week, and I felt like a prize idiot) I also had to make agar plates for everyone else, as dictated by my lab overlord Dave.

Dave was cool. He flat out told me not to join the lab, and he was actually the one that came up with 'Jackass' as the PI's nickname.

So, one day, I made some agar plates (from a mix, no less), let them solidify while I was at class, then came back and put each individual plate into the sleeve that they came in. I then took them across the lab, and put them in the crisper section of the fridge.

Go back and read the previous paragraph again. I'll wait.

2 days later, I'm sitting at the lab bench. Dave goes to grab some plates out of the fridge, and all I hear is "Holy Fuck! What the hell did you do?" I walk around to the fridge, and Dave is standing there with the sleeve of plates, and all of the agar has un-solidified and is soupy in the bottom of the plastic sleeve. Dave is laughing his ass off.

I . . . More
Views: 370 | Comments: 10
Last by Geeka on Feb 01, 2011, 11:59am
I may have mentioned in a previous post that I was planning on going back to school. Well, 'back' is probably the wrong word. See, the longest I have ever been out of school was from the time I was born until age 5. So for those of you that are counting, I've had 25 consecutive years of schooling. I literally can't not learn.

Since I defended my dissertation, it's been a string of teaching myself things. I've been knitting, and sewing. I bought a violin to pick up where I left off (but the cats have eaten 2 bows). I've started taking yoga classes. These are all good things. They are more like hobbies though, and they really aren't scratching the itch that I need.

The admissions person called me to let me know that I was accepted to the program last week, and to let me know that I could start the following week if I wanted. She had been asked to ask me (the convolution was interesting, because I know the head of the department) for the department head why I wanted to do this program because I already had a PhD. I kind of lied a little. I told them that I wanted to get a biotech MBA, but there were classes that I am able to teach in the curriculum, and this program was the closest I could find that would be similar. My real answer: I'm bored. I need a learning fix . . . More
Views: 197 | Comments: 0
Jackass (via email): What's the stuff we use for gels to see it on the imager?

Geeka: Sybr green

Jackass: that's for DNA

Geeka: Sypro Orange

Jackass: that's for gels, I want blots.

Geeka: Sypro Ruby

Jackass: yes, that's what I wanted.

Geeka: ???

(I haven't been in his lab since September of 2008. This series of emails came today. He could have did a find on my dissertation, or on the 2 people that have graduated since I left, ask his grad student, or his 2 post-docs, no he sends me a series of coded emails.)

In a good thing, this exchange allowed me to archive the 3 emails I've had in my inbox from him about my project from the last week I worked for him.

. . . More
Views: 331 | Comments: 4
Last by unbalanced reaction on Dec 29, 2010, 2:12pm
On the 12th day of Christmas, the Lab Gods gave to me

12 power supplies humming

11 pipets aspirating

10 PCR reactions

9 Bunsen’s alighting

8 waterbaths warming

7 autoclaves sterilizing

6 co-authors agreeing

5 open tissue culture hoods

4 pre-cast gels

3 clones in the right orientation

2 Western Blots

And a first author publication.

Happy Holidays everyone!

. . . More
Views: 340 | Comments: 4
Last by Gerty-Z on Dec 10, 2010, 11:47am
I blogged a week ago about a collaborater that I hadn't really met, his death, and how this made me feel. I have further musings on this.

My current boss, while he hasn't lived in this city for 4 years, is a member of a community of people that share the same ethnic group, of which I am not a part of. We've found out that we do know some people in common, and have disscussed these people.

On Wednesday, he told me about how he had to cancel our 1:1 because there was a funeral he had to go to. Then, later in the day, I heard him telling the 'head' boss how this guy (in his ethnic group) had died while at the ticket counter of the local airport of a massive heart attack .

Fast forward to today, when I go visit Jackass for our annual Holiday get-drunk event, and I get pulled over by another faculty member to let me know that my undergrad academic advisor had died, and that he died on his way back to home country. Then I realized, that because this faculty member and my current boss knew each other, they were the same person.

I feel bad. I gave this guy some shit. He was a good guy that was obviously at my college because he wanted an easy gig, and I found that out, and made it difficult for him. Basically, I found out he was teaching from a text from 1972, . . . More
Views: 646 | Comments: 10
Last by Tideliar on Dec 09, 2010, 12:53pm
As a grad student, I worked for someone who essentially was 'independently scientifically wealthy', insomuch as he could buy whatever he wanted, work on whatever he wanted, and didn't have a funding agency to answer to. This was really good, because I could order anything I wanted. Also, when he was in a bad mood, he'd 'shop'. Occasionally, I'd find 'gifts' in the lab when he and I had a knock-down, drag-out fight. (One of these was an automated miniprep machine that sucked ass.) Essentially, we could do whatever we wanted money wise (as long as it didn't have a bio-rad label on it.)

The disadvantage to this is that the boss wasn't pressured for publications. He also had weird rules. Students weren't allowed to write book chapers/reviews. You had to present him with an outline and storyboard of figured prior to starting any experiments, and if your data didn't match (not answer wise, but experiment wise) you would have to redo it. (I once made a mistake of combining a flow cytometry experiment...). You couldn't use red and green and blue in the same graph. There were...hoops...that you had to jump through, and you'd have to start the circuit all over again if  you nicked on.

From the first draft to the 32nd draft (I'm not kidding) of my only paper, there was a span . . . More
Views: 275 | Comments: 4
Last by Geeka on Dec 06, 2010, 7:45pm
Some PI's are of the variety that the recruit based upon the specific project they have to get off the ground (i.e. just got funded). Some recruit because they have this idea that they need prelim data on. Some PIs are in the boat that you can do whatever (within reason) that you are interested in. There are pitfalls to all of these.

In the first case, you have a pretty good project that is funded, there's some prelim data on it, there is direction. Downfalls: your PI has a very specific place they want this to go, so while you may have all the footwork done, you if you don't get the exact information that they want, they could give you bullshit 'confirmatory' stuff to do. If your PI is standup, you could probably get out soon. But, you probably are going to have to do an additional post-doc to prove your worth and learn some more techniques.

In the second case, it's kind of what science should be, there's a question, an idea, and someone needs to do the work. This might take long because you might have to develop something/make something. This might be very rewarding though. If it get's funded, great, but you should be aware of the fundability of the project.

The third case (and I will admit that my own PhD experience was more 3 than 2), you learn a lot. You . . . More
Views: 660 | Comments: 8
Last by Evie on Nov 26, 2010, 4:26pm
I'm actually friends with my post-doc advisor on facebook. He and I have kind of been going back and forth all day about different things. I checked facebook tonight, which isn't something I regularly do, and noticed that he posted about losing a friend today. This friend was both a personal and scientific friend to him, and while I didn't know him (he left the U before I started working for Tex), I heard stories. Occasionally, I trouble-shot something via email for him. He's probably best described as a "friend of a friend", but in the scientific world, aren't we all collaboators?

While I was in grad school, one of the faculty members died. She was the only female faculty member when I started. She was a squat old woman, long hair wound on top of her head in an amazing braid. She had rosy cheeks, large glasses, and a no-bullshit attitude.

While I have no evidence to support this claim, I imagine that she developed this attitude because she got her degrees in the 50's. She was married, had 4 girls, and an amazingly dutiful husband. She was really big on understanding where things came from. When she taught in lab, you needed to know what RPMI was made of and what the RPMI stood for.

She had an office that looked like it could collapse at any moment. Her labs . . . More
Views: 640 | Comments: 5
Last by MeadandScience on Nov 10, 2010, 10:41am
My graduate school PI had a somewhat lax method of mentoring. His philosophy was: "I give you money, a place and an opportunity. What you make it is up to you." He had a very hands-off method. We didn't have lab meetings. No one worked on projects together. It was sort of a 'everyperson for themselves' type of lab. We didn't even have scheduled 1 on 1 meetings. I would just barge in on him whenever I wanted.

(This worked for me. Mostly because I'm independent and a morning person.)

I was always the go-to person to supervise the new tech/grad student/volunteer in lab. This remained with me even when I moved to my post-doc lab. As a post-doc, I was largely the one in charge, because my boss was always very busy. I've had some really good students and volunteers and tech, and I've had ones that couldn't find their ass with a map.

I have rules for my 'minons'. This keeps me organized and them learning. Here they are:

1. I expect you to think. If you are in the sciences, no one is going to be there to hold your hand forever. You have to have an idea.
2. I expect you to write everything down. I'm not talking just about protocols, I'm talking everything. For instance, where stuff is in the lab, lot numbers of things that you have used, not . . . More
Views: 337 | Comments: 11
Last by Why am I doing this again? on Oct 29, 2010, 10:48am
I got together with some good sciencey friends last night to have some fun. The first people to arrive was my former student volunteer (aka the minion) and the tech. My old boss (Tex) actually sent them with old print outs from the cytometer to find out what was wrong. The previous tech showed up next. Then LabBFF and ImageGoddess. We had great fun and spent some time talking about our new jobs. During these conversations, I finally figured out what it was that I really enjoyed about my new job:

I get to finish something and move on.

When I was a student and post-doc, there was always something else. Even when I was 'done' there was always something to do. I like to check things off of a list. I like to feel like I accomplished something. I never got that feeling. In fact, I'm still doing things for Jackass and Tex. I get texts and emails from people in Tex's lab all the time. I actually had to go spend a couple hours a few Saturdays ago to find stuff for Jackass. These are evolving things, they are never done. It drives me nuts.

With the new job, I've completed 2 projects this week. One was something I was working on since I started. One was decided it wasn't worth my time. I'm about 90% done with another project. I was also given a new project recently th . . . More
Views: 291 | Comments: 3
Last by Tideliar on Oct 25, 2010, 9:43am
I would like to remind you that there are plenty of bloggers that are supporting the Donor's Choice efforts. I implore you to give to these worthy causes.

I give you the highlight of my visit to the Wisconsin State Fair, circa 2001.

. . . More
Views: 295 | Comments: 9
Last by Geeka on Oct 23, 2010, 11:13am
When I was a young(ish) grad student, it took me forever to get my first clones. I worshiped at the alter of XhoI and KpnI. I slept with the NEB catalogue. Finally, I mentioned that if these colonies, yes, these ones here on this dish, if they were right, I would do a cartwheel in front of Jackass's door.

So I did.

A couple of things:

  • I didn't got to grad school in the 50's, our building just looked like that.
  • I was allowed to wear those shorts in lab.
  • I was wearing at least one pink sock.
  • I don't remember why my legs are that tan.
  • I got kicked out of ballet class. I am not graceful. That is as close to a cartwheel as I get.
  • I don't own a scanner.
  • We would put our drinks on the fire alarms (red box on top of wall).

Come on people. There is some teacher who is appealing to donors choose because her kindergarten students don't have chairs. CHAIRS to sit on.

. . . More
Views: 246 | Comments: 14
Last by Jason Goldman on Oct 14, 2010, 12:02am
I just got my first email telling me that one of the projects I picked got funded, so here is the first, of hopefully many pictures of Geeka

This is the day of my 5th birthday. You can see 3 things:

  • My best friends are guys.
  • My first friend (Alex) is wearing a Star Trek shirt. I was hanging out with the nerds even then.
  • I am making fists because I really hated wearing that dress.

Come one people, you can do better. One less mocha for you, one more hour of blushing for me.

. . . More
Views: 488 | Comments: 9
Last by Thomas Joseph on Oct 08, 2010, 11:05am
Ok people, here's the deal: I wanted to be a biology teacher forever. One of my favorite things in the world is seeing that look on a student's face when they get it. So in order to see the look on someone's face, I've decided to run a contest in which you can see the look on someone's face: Mine.

For each project that gets funded through my page at the Labspaces linky, I will post a picture of me doing something ridiculous. If you know me at all, I don't like having my picture taken. My close friend, @imagegoddess, will attest to this. I set the bar low people. Let's get this done! If everyone that visits this site would give up the $4.00 that normally would give them an over-sugared, over-caffeinated *$ drink, we might be able to make some kids excited about science. One of them could become an engineer, or a biologist, or president. Let's be a little tired tomorrow to make some children excited.

Here's the link: Linky-Linky

Here are the picture options:

Me with a cow at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Me doing a cartwheel in front of my lab door the day I got my first clone in grad school.

Me a . . . More
Views: 239 | Comments: 11
Last by Nikkilina on Oct 06, 2010, 8:33am
What would I be doing if I weren’t a scientist? Well, there’s kind of 2 answers to that question.

First, if I weren’t doing the type of science I’m doing now, I’d be a meteorologist (and not one of those stupid weather chicks that are just glorified newscasters). I’d love to go chase storms. I’m one of those silly people that love standing on the porch with the rain coming down all around me. I live on a hill so generally I can see the weather roll in. As soon as there are warnings or watches the weather channel comes on. I also watch the weather channel as I’m getting ready in the morning.

If I had to do something that had nothing to do with science whatsoever, I’d be a radio DJ. I love music. I can’t stand quiet.

When I was little, there were radio shows that I was allowed to listen to. One was a Rabbi that would play kid’s music on a local station. The other was Dr. Demento. Dr. Demento was on at 10PM on a Sunday. I could only get the station if I was tuned in just right, and the wire antenna was wrapped around the left bottom part of my footboard on my bed. When I was 10-11, I really loved Weird Al. But Dr. Demento played all sorts of other humorous music: things like “Star Trekkin’” and “Dead Pup . . . More
Views: 353 | Comments: 7
Last by becca on Oct 04, 2010, 12:39pm
We had this bar by our grad school. It was your typical college bar: hard wood seats, cheap pitchers of beer, and framed signed pictures of local college sports celebrities. It became the hangout when we were first years because we had a 4 hour break between 2 classes, weren't allowed to do rotations our first semester, and most of use lived too far away to go home and come back again. So the 4 of us (there were 6 in our class, 2 didn't drink), would sit in this bar have lunch, and drink until our epidemiology class. Why could we do this? Because the epi text was the same epi text that I had as an undergrad, the tests were all open book/notes, and we were being taught in a large auditorium. Now, admittedly, when we weren't drunk, we were doing things like the take home tests for other classes, but we kinda goofed off in this class.

The bar became the place where we would have our infrequent departmental happy hours. There were a core group of us that would plan and go, and we acquired more people as years went on. One of these people is frequent labspaces commenter ImageGoddess. She and I were in different labs, worked on different biologies, but we had some techniques in common. One of these techniques meant that we had to go use big fancy always broken cause people ar . . . More
Views: 391 | Comments: 4
Last by Evie on Sep 30, 2010, 5:32pm
I've decided that I'm going to do it. I'm going to spend 25 minutes of my hard won weekend, and apply for a MS program. Why? I just quit being a student, why the hell would I want to submit myself to something like this again? Short answer, because I want to. 

. . . More
Views: 353 | Comments: 13
Last by Evie on Sep 30, 2010, 5:05pm
There’s this one piece of machinery that I use for virtually everything. We make it, and my job is to use this thing for everything, to prove that it can be used for everything. This week has been hard. There was a power outage during a storm, in which all of these machines were being used, and they all crashed. Of the 3 that we use on a regular basis, 2 are out of commission for different reasons related to the power. So we have one. This particular one, decided that it was just not going to do what it wanted for so long, that it ruined my experiment the other day.


I set up a different experiment yesterday. It was long, and hard, and it basically doesn’t want to work for me for no explainable reason (well, that’s not true, one of our multichannel pipets has a self forming gradient which is seriously making me lose it). So after all this set up, I signed up to use this machine today. This is essentially how it goes:


G: Good morning, machine, I hope you had a restful night. You are going to work for me today, right? (I caress the top of the machine with my hand).


I know that you’ve been working really hard this week, and that you are picking up the slack for the others. But I really, re . . . More
Views: 1314 | Comments: 13
Last by Evie on Sep 22, 2010, 12:45pm
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 . . . More
Views: 775 | Comments: 3
Last by Dr. O on Sep 17, 2010, 2:00pm
I was fortunate that I never had to work with animals as a student or post-doc. I have always felt like it was something I should know how to do for experience, but I worked on things that didn't have an animal model and the drafts of grants I helped with were for developing them.

My post-doc advisor, Tex, was the IACUC chair. He would spend more time dealing with animal issues than for stuff in our lab. As a consequence, he had to put the smackdown on people on a regular basis. I'm not talking bullshit stuff (I.e. wearing gowns) but serious shit, like breeding without permission.

At some point, he gets a call from someone, because someone posted an ad on craigslist for a chicken that needs a home. They mentioned in the ad that the chicken was hatched in a lab at the U, and if someone didn't take it, it was going to be killed. (It was for virus propagation).

So he has to go to this lab and tell these grad students that they had to kill the chicken. Which, I know, probably ate at him.

The thing about Tex, is that he is, if nothing, a sucker for animals. He's pretty much rescued every animal he has. This past winter, when he started feeding some stray cats, we all took bets on how long it was going to take before the cats ended up in his house (about . . . More
Views: 648 | Comments: 9
Last by Tideliar on Sep 22, 2010, 12:23pm
The thing about "If I knew then, what I know now", is that there always someone that does. You are all reading this right now, presumably, because you want to know now what years of experience will bring you. It's a shortcut. I'm kind of harsh about people trying to get around experiential learning, mostly because we are scientists, and we should be learning by experience, but also because I had someone tell me everything I needed to know about being in my graduate PI's lab. I didn't listen. However, there were times in which I would sit down, be quiet, and realize that "Holy Shit, this is what Dave told me. Exactly."

When I did a rotation in the lab that ended up being my graduate lab, the senior student was a loud, fun-loving, brash, brilliant, beaten, gregarious guy named Dave. Dave was still excited about his project. He loved science. He was ~1 year away from defending. I ended up joining that lab because of him. I did a lot of things because of him, and I *still* talk to him. In fact, when I graduated, he flew me to his company so that I could have practice interviewing at biotech places.

Here are some things that he told me.

1. Nothing is going to work your first year. This is a time for you to be dealing with classes, learning techniques, and readin . . . More
Views: 441 | Comments: 4
Last by Geeka on Sep 02, 2010, 6:21pm

This installment is because Genomic Repairman made some comment about wanting the iPod Touch so I thought that this would be my "Stuff Geeka Likes: the tech-toys edition".

1. My iphone (seriously, if you need me to link you to this...). I just got the iphone 4. Do I see any differences with dropped calls? No. However part of that is because I have had the phone for a month, and I have used 15 minutes. I don't really talk on the phone. I have almost used my max of the data/texting though, so that should count for something right?

I use mine for a lot of things. I ride the bus, so it's my musical entertainment. I listen to the BBC 1 morning show via the Sirius app. I also listen to local stations using the Pocket Radio app.

I do artsy picture things with the Hipstamatic app. I also have flickr installed too.

I obviously have facebook and twitter installed (the official apps). I also have a few 'productivity' things. I use the online weightwatchers application, which keeps me honest. I also use the google maps application for the bus system in my city. We also seem to have a lack of timers in lab, so I use mine to time stuff in lab, and everyone knows that when the duck quacks, it's time. :)

2. My . . . More
Views: 668 | Comments: 9
Last by Lisa on Sep 24, 2010, 11:08pm
Confession: I hated science class when I was in elementary school. Elementary school science for me was mostly all physical sciences (earth science sort of thing). I imagine that this is normal, so that students have something hands on to do, but for me, it was incredibly boring. My favorite classes were always English and music. I actually remember telling my science teacher that I was never going to be a scientist.

My first year in middle school, I had a really great science teacher. He was a big man of Italian descent who had a rather long mustache that he would chew on when thinking. Early in the year, stuff changed for me in science class, I think that he realized that I wasn't being challenged, and suddenly, things got fun. I remember him giving the class assignments, and then tweaking mine. I remember him getting me to do all of the demos. I also remember him pulling me out of home ec class to set up the experiments for the higher level classes. I got the impression that his wife was a scientist too, I think a geologist, because through her he got these really cool slides of Mt. St. Helen's erupting and some moon rocks. He really encouraged me. In fact, it was him that convinced me to quit the all-city choir and go to 'Saturday Science Academy'.

Then, when . . . More
Views: 454 | Comments: 5
Last by Gerty-Z on Aug 24, 2010, 8:09am
It never fails. When I have a presentation something goes wrong. I'm not one of those people that have problems presenting. I get a little nervous, say things like "I'm shooting for not sucking", and then get up there and look and sound comfortable, mostly. (Unless it was my defense, in which I was bawling by the end, because I got a half hour intro.)

2 blocks from work, a bird crapped on my head. Like smack dab on the top of my head. I went into my coffee shop, which, because the normal woman is on FMLA, is not quite my favorite place to be anymore. I washed the poop out of my head in their bathroom, and then went to get a drink, because the frou-frou coffee machine is still out at work. Here's the thing: I don't like the new barista, she make a great cup of coffee, but she's kind of stand-offish. So I get up to the counter, order an iced latte and she actually gives me guff about not getting a hot cherry mocha, which I usually get. To which I say that if she already made it, I'll take it instead (which I felt was the right thing to do, because I had that job in college, and I know how odd it is to get one of the regulars not ordering the regular). But she didn't have it, she had a normal mocha which the woman in front of me forgot to order iced, which made me believe tha . . . More
Views: 2267 | Comments: 4
Last by Evie on Aug 21, 2010, 2:46pm
The office admin and I were having a discussion in the kitchen this morning. We were talking about how in the flood over the weekend, the massive copier/fax machine was spared. The filtered water line (like the one that goes to a fridge ice machine) exploded over the weekend, and flooded the kitchen, a server room and a conference room.

I mentioned that in my old lab, I would name equipment. She suggested Xena Xerox, and we thought that this was valid, because it had won it's first battle over the weekend.

Do any of you name, or have nicknames for your lab equipment? It was so pervasive at my old lab, that if I said someone left Mary on overnight again, my boss would know that it was the Typhoon that got left on. (I was responsible for Typhoon Mary...).

We had a freezer room full of -80's, who I named after philosophers, because it was much easier to say "Freezer Camus" than freezer 1, because inevitably someone would ask if the numbering started from the right or left of the room.

We had a PCR machine named Yossarian, because the funding source had a way of using the phrase "Catch-22" wrong all the time.

We had a 'Countess' for a while, that we named "Buffy" for buffy coats.

Also, an admin note. I've not been blogging a lot. I' . . . More
Views: 456 | Comments: 4
Last by Prabodh Kandala on Aug 28, 2010, 8:58am
The reason why I am starting this, is because my PI would routinely call out 'Wikipedia' in the lab and expect me to answer. I don't know if it's my mighty internet-fu, but give me 2 minutes and a broadband connection, and I can generally find it. So I thought that I would introduce you to 2 of my favorite websites today:

Flowing Data:

When I was a post-doc, I needed to find a free and easy way to make a heatmap for some data I was generating. There was no good program that I could find that would take my data and do what I wanted with it. After talking to a friend, he suggested looking into R, and I thought that might be a good idea. So, because I'm quick and dirty, I looked for a site to teach me what I needed to do right then. So through this tutorial, I was able to take my data and get it into a format that I wasn't embarrassed to show in the big lab meeting.

I subscribe to the RSS feed, and they (as long with GOOD) have some excellent infographics that are good for us Data JunkiesTM.

The second site . . . More
Views: 394 | Comments: 8
Last by Geeka on Aug 12, 2010, 5:25pm
I have a weekly meeting with my new boss. It's a 1 on 1 thing that he wants to be really low key. He claimed that he wanted to keep an eye on me since I am the only member of the 10 person group that hasn't worked in industry before.

During my meeting, he mentioned to me that he was impressed with my work thus far, that I was the most advanced in the new group, and he'd like me to present at the next lab meeting (but only if I was comfortable). Hells yeah! I'm so totally viewing this as a 'you are doing a good job, Geeka' praise thing. It might be some screwball industry chum laden shark infested waters of a lab meeting (sorry, I wasn't paying attention to the fact that it was shark week last week), but I'm going to go in shooting. Silent Squee!

I work with other people that are from other countries, and for some reason, they particularly like to shorten my name to it's first syllable. This chaps my ass like nothing else. I don't like it. I also don't like the 'French' version of my name. I don't like (but deal with) the sing-songy, whiney version of my name. This all may stem from having a childhood nickname that infiltrated my life so much, that my teachers didn't even know what my real first name was until 6th grade. I feel like a little bit of a prick telling t . . . More
Views: 462 | Comments: 3
Last by Lab BFF on Aug 11, 2010, 6:04pm

Jackass was my PhD advisor. He and I had a very strange relationship. He has this weird British self-deprecating sense of humor. He contributes nothing to discussions. He's generally an asshole. He and I have had screaming matches down hallways. He's a great scientist. He has awesome ideas. He just has no idea how to deal with funding sources, people, or management. I once tried to explain the 'catch more flies with honey' concept to him, and he genuinely didn't get it. His philosophy for students when something like this: "I give you a place, money, and a chance, what you make with it is up to you." He and I got on famously.

You had to earn Jackass's respect. He gave everyone a bullshit project, and when you finally got so ridiculously pissed off and went to scream at him in his office, you got respect back. Some students never earned it.

I still talk to him. In fact, I still have emails in my inbox from the last week I was his student, because I was pissed he didn't say goodbye/good luck/get the hell out of here. We still talk science. We talk about life. We still, on occasion, get really drunk, and I have to make sure that he can leave the bar without being asked to leave.

Tex was my Post-doc advisor. He rescu . . . More
Views: 337 | Comments: 6
Last by Geeka on Aug 10, 2010, 5:50pm
It all started like this: I'm used to getting paid once a month. That's how the Uni did it. I've been getting paid that way for a decade. So all of my bills are due within the first 10 days of the month. Now that I have a Real Job, I get paid biweekly. And that's a big adjustment, because I've spent the past 2 months getting stuff paid ahead, so that I can re-situate what gets paid when. Only I'm a moron, and have automatic deduction set up and forgot to change something, so this morning was spent rushing to an ATM, so that my rent check wouldn't bounce.

I did an experiment last week that I couldn't read on fancy machine, so I read it today, only I forgot to change a setting, so I only got 75% of what I needed, which means I have to read it again. Only the machine is booked. We fucking make the machine, and I can't get time on it. Seriously, I can go down 2 flights of stairs and make the machine myself. Only I have to bump another experiment that I was going to do tomorrow to read the one that I mis-read today.

My Monday meeting got moved until tomorrow, which backs me up again. I had to go to a meeting today which was a WASTE OF MY TIME.

I swear it was cold enough to see my breath in the office.

I didn& . . . More
Views: 255 | Comments: 3
Last by Lady Scientist on Aug 07, 2010, 11:22am
Science keeps me coming back; writing keeps me staying sane..

I'm a pessimist for myself, a champion for others. I love science, but would happily become independently wealthy and fund science. I have an existential bent. I've a realistic outlook on life. I'm not a snowflake, or cupcake, or someone that needs the sugar coating. I'm burnt ends, lavender incense, and generally a broken person. I have quit trying to fit in, for the most part, and so I blog, hopefully to keep me sane, and to keep others from the crazy.

I told my science teacher at age 9 that I hated science. I told my PhD advisor at 29 that I hated science. Here's the thing: Science is a crazy bitch. There is no greater high than a stack full of data. There's nothing that makes you feel more invincible than something that wasn't known before. It's a drug. Writing is like the rehab. The days when you can't get your fix only seem to work out when you can open your head to it. Science keeps me coming back, writing keeps me staying sane.

Fuck it, was my original policy, but that's only 2 words. . . . More
Views: 424 | Comments: 7
Last by JaneB on Aug 07, 2010, 5:05pm
The past ~2 years have been pretty hard for me. I defended my dissertation, looked for jobs, took a post doc, got divorced, took a 'real' job and then started blogging here.

When graduation was pending, I had a job that I really wanted, a job that I should have taken, a job that I did take, and 2 jobs that I wasn't quite ready for yet. Don't get me wrong, the job that I ended up with taught me a lot of stuff. It taught me how to be a leader, how to not be so stressed out all the time, and also how to have someone trust me and act like a mentor to me. I'm one of the few that really liked her PhD advisor, we have been, and always shall be, more like friends.

I got married a few years into my PhD work. I married someone who was basically the opposite of me. He seemed to appreciate the long hours I spent in lab, and how I loved what I did. When I became a post-doc, however, he assumed that all of the weekends/holidays would stop, and I'd have a regular 9-5 job with vacation and sicktime. I honestly don't know where he got that impression. I explained to him the track that I was on, and how hard it was going to be. Then, almost a year ago, he decided that he wanted something else out of life. He was jealous of the love I had for my job, and how that love was always goi . . . More
Views: 962 | Comments: 2
Last by Ash on Sep 04, 2010, 3:59am
One of the most important things that you can do when you discover a new virus is to figure out how it gets into the cell. Viruses need a specific receptor to get in, think of it as a key and lock method (and yes, there are some ways to pick a lock, and yes, there are also some skeleton keys lying around), you may not know exactly what the key on the virus looks like, or what the lock on the cell looks like, but, if you can block this interaction, the virus won’t infect the cell. Fun (and profit) for everyone.

A classic experiment (once you have a hyphothesis of what receptor the virus is using to enter the cell) is to transfect a cell line that doesn’t naturally express the receptor with the receptor and let the virus infect it. If you are lucky, 293Ts don’t express your receptor (cause you can transfect them by looking at them wrong). If you are very unlucky, you have to do the reverse experiment, and knock out the receptor in the permissive cells with something like siRNA (to prove that this is in fact, the real receptor).

Here’s what bugs the hell out of me: there are a lot of people out there that use viral transduction for their work, and they have worked out all these fancy things to get these viruses in the cells that they are working on, and peo . . . More
Views: 723 | Comments: 9
Last by Miedvied on Aug 04, 2010, 3:47pm
So, I'm a virologist by training. This means that I can talk about symptoms of Ebola while putting ketchup (FYI, that's the correct spelling, none of this 'catsup' bullshit) on a hamburger. However, the most uncomfortable I've been has been explaining things to PI's in the department. For example:

1. HIV is a big deal. Every time I see the abbreviation MSM, I know that it means 'men who have sex with men'. It's just something we all talk about, but not in any sort of detail. In this one Journal Club, someone was presenting a paper on HIV transmission in MSM, and it listed different ways contact could occur, one of which was 'rimming' (seriously, in the journal article, that specific, not oral sex). We all kind of gloss over it, presenter says something like "Table 2 lists all of the sexual acts that were included in the survey". One of the PIs, one who has been in the HIV field since the start, stops the JC and wants to know what rimming is. This PI is kind of a sweet Indian grandpa man. He wants one of the students to explain what rimming is to him during lunch.

2. Jackass is reviewing a breast cancer grant. He walks into the lab to tell us this, then he hangs around, like a teenage boy wanting to ask the cute girl to dance. All of a sudden, he starts talking abou . . . More
Views: 632 | Comments: 10
Last by Jones on Jul 30, 2010, 9:25am
There is something that graduate school does to you that isn't right. You spend a lot of your time wishing that you were somewhere else. And lo! You find out that you get to go to a scientific conference, a meeting, and what could be better than an international meeting? An international meeting during Oktoberfest.

Alas, you have to attend with others, and this is where things go wrong, horribly wrong.

I have had the fortunate experience of being able to travel as part of my graduate school tenure. I don't knock it. I don't think I would have ever had the chance to go to these places had I not a rather unique boss. That is where the story gets interesting.

My grad advisor is a strange man. We will call him Jackass (cause he once got in a yelling match with my predecessor that involved threated punches because he called grad advisor a jackass under his breath). He could be the most socially awkward man that I know. He is an eternal pessimist. He, I don't think, actually has any interest in the science that his lab does. He does not work well with women, more out of being uncomfortable than being a jackass. He blatantly ignores rules, never is on time, and is unbelievably forgetful. (We are now great friends since I've graduated.)

We (me, labmate and . . . More
Views: 552 | Comments: 3
Last by Kate on Mar 18, 2011, 4:43pm
Being a woman in the sciences is sometimes hard. Sometimes you have to put up with total and utter bullshit. I'm one of those women that if I feel I'm getting some sort of "special" treatment from a guy (God forbid the word "honey' is used), I'm going to knee him, and he's going to feel it for several days.

Currently, I am the only woman in a research group of 10. There's another research group with which we work, and they are 20% male. I don't really know how this worked out. But since I'm in the 'boy' lab, there are some things that I would like to change.

1. I have wrist problems. This necessitates that my wrist is at the correct height. If I raise my chair, my feet don't touch the ground. I'd like keyboard arms at all stations.

2. I'm short: easy access to stepstools please.

3. If you make 'women' lab equipment, can you please not make it pink? I fucking HATE pink.

4. Because I am short, my torso is short. This means that if I'm at a big honking microscope, I have to have the chair all the way up, sit on something, and then my knees don't fit in the knee-well.

5. I would like optical scanners on said scopes to automatically adjust to to my eye w . . . More
Views: 657 | Comments: 7
Last by Arlenna on Jul 26, 2010, 2:38pm
Question: Hey! Geeka? Why are you here?

Answer: Thats a very philosophical question. Why are any of us here?

Q: You know very well that's not what I meant: Why are you here, here? Why did you move your slightly more popular than this website to

A: Well, several reasons. One is a rather personal reason: I initially started blogging as a way to vent my frustration about grad school. Then I blogged the whole dissertation writing, the job search, the being a post-doc, the divorce, and finally the new job search. I do have a job now. It's a job that I can't really go into specifics about. (See, Infectious Agent is kind of a play on words about secret agents. How I wanted to be Agent 99 when I was little, but I digress.) But I still really like blogging, so I need something that will kind of reign me in. Also, everyone needs a family, and I like the twitterati (you know who you are!) so much, that I decided to follow.

Q: So since you've covered all of the 'normal' girl-gets-PhD topics, what are you planning to do here?

A: Well, I think that I'm going to try to do a mix of things. Some is going to have a serious virology bent, some wil . . . More