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Author: Jeffrey Martz | Views: 4555 | Comments: 15
Last by GUEST COMMENT on Dec 15, 2011, 3:34pm
I was invited by Brian Krueger to participate at LabSpaces in order to offer a "paleontology perspective." I also maintain a separate blog called PaleoErrata, which I do not recommend visiting for any conceivable reason. It uses extremely bad language and has a tendency to ramble. This blog is intended to be a bit more focused. In addition to discussing important discoveries in the field of vertebrate paleontology, I want to explain to non-paleontologists exactly what this science is about, how it is done, and why it is significant.

Paleontology is the study of ancient life. As such, it is the bastard child of biology (the study of life) and geology (the study of the Earth). We are studying things which were once alive, but we get all our information from the rock record, where it is buried. As a result, paleontologists may be part of biology or geology departments at universities, and have degrees relating to either discipline, or to both (I have one zoology degree and two geology degrees). There are no paleontology degrees. For prospective university students interested in becoming a paleontologists, I recommend double majoring.

I am a vertebrate paleontologist, which means I work on animals with backbones; th . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 23333 | Comments: 13
Last by Priyanka Choudhury on Apr 02, 2013, 11:45am
I get asked this question a lot. There are two questions, actually, that students ask me all the time. One is: how did I get my job? The other: do I really need a PhD?

Today I will attempt to answer the second question.

So I was going to start out by saying that whether or not a PhD is the right choice for you depends on what you want to do with your life. Essentially- where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? And then I read the article by Image Goddess about how annoying this question is (and I laughed). So let's not go there.

I understand that not everyone has a clear vision of what they want in life. They aren't sure what makes them happy at age 21, or even 25, so how can you choose whether or not to devote 6 years of your life to working slave hours for barely living wages? This certainly complicates things.

The decision as to whether or not to get a PhD really does depend on having some idea of what you want to do in the future. If you don't really want it, I think you'll be miserable and chances are you won't make it through. According to this article, only 57% of st . . . More
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 11930 | Comments: 13
Last by GUEST COMMENT on Jul 10, 2012, 4:25pm
I'm a young researcher. I haven't yet been around the block. I've had one research job for the past 5+ years and that has mostly been spent coordinating influenza epidemiology studies. Only recently have I jumped into the deep end of the laboratory world to tackle the second part of my dissertation.

I know IRBs really well. I've lost count how many I've have to declare war against. I know IACUCs well enough to keep our lab kosher. I know funding agencies and the stress they love to evoke. I know how to convince random people that they should participate in my study - "Help a girl graduate, please!" I know phlebotomy well enough to actually get blood. I know how to coordinate an epi study like nobody's business. I know a random set of laboratory skills, even how to harvest influenza viruses from embryonated chicken eggs.

But why did I choose to do science and public health? Honestly, I chose science because of its cool factor. I thought microbes were fascinating and I wanted to learn as much as I could about them. I can pin point my love for infectious diseases to a specific life event - choosing to do an 8th grade book report on The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. To me, the Ebola virus was fascinating and throughout high . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 14405 | Comments: 18
Last by Suzy on May 17, 2011, 7:04pm
After attending a conference a couple months ago and being forced to sit through some pretty bad presentations, I had in mind to discuss the importance of grad students learning how to put together and deliver a good presentation. This skill is critical and I can't believe how many scientists struggle with presentations. I know it's tough and I know when you're nervous it is easy to forget some things you wanted to say. But there are ways of making your presentation easier for your audience to understand, and make it so it triggers reminders for you, so when the nerves come in, you don't forget what you wanted to say.

My most recent experience really highlighted this problem because as soon as the speaker was done, a man behind me raised his hand to ask a question. He said, "I COULDN'T HEAR A WORD YOU SAID AND I CAN'T READ ANY OF YOUR SLIDES!" He was pissed off. I was too, but I wasn't going to stand up in a room of 100 people and yell at the speaker. But it was true. So many things were wrong in every talk presented.

Honestly, if I pay several hundred dollars to attend a conference and I get up at 7 am to make your 8 am talk (which is waking up at 4 am for me on west coast time), and I get to the room, and now I sit through . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 1125 | Comments: 12
Last by 27 and a PhD on Feb 24, 2011, 3:46pm
29andaPhD is a PostDoc with a degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics who is currently on the hunt for a real job. She blogs at 29 and a PhD and she can be found on twitter as 28andaPhD.


One of the most awesome experiences of grad school (besides landing the coveted spot for the interview, getting into your favourite lab, or finishing your degree sooner than planned) is passing the qualifying or comprehensive exam. For short, I'll call it qual. In a way this exam is designed to not only test your capacity to create new and test an idea, by teaching yourself new concepts, challenge paradigms, establish a new line of thinking, but to “filter”, in a way, the incoming talent of the department. Passing the qual, in a way, serves to welcome you into some sort of club, where students (usually) don't take any more exams, that of senior grad students who are held up as the best and brightest within a department. It was understood that if you passed this rigorous examination you had fought hard and earned your spot in the department. At least that's how it seemed to the 24-year-old-super-scared me.

This is my story about passing th . . . More
Author: Angry Scientist | Views: 1069 | Comments: 5
Last by Nikkilina on Oct 14, 2010, 2:01pm

Checking out early in Angry's lab requires extreme circumstances

. . . More
Author: the modern scientist | Views: 2011 | Comments: 1
Last by Redshift42 on Jul 01, 2010, 12:39pm
Greetings fellow scientists, science-enthusiasts, and LabSpaces paparazzi! For those who don’t know me from my *ehem* Twitter omnipresence, I thought I’d share a little about myself and how I ended up in a career commonly—and often appropriately—preceded by the word “mad.” If you do know me, don’t zone out just yet. You may discover something new, and this material might be on tomorrow’s pop quiz...

My infatuation with science began when I was young and fancied myself as something of an athlete. During high school, I played three sports, in addition to participating in a bevy of other extracurricular activities. Keeping up with athletic practice, homework, and a smattering of social events took an incredible amount of energy. I became interested in nutrition, which I saw at the time as a way to optimize the ratio of energy generated vs time spent eating. (Note that there were many flaws in the design of this study. The most important flaw was that, like most teenagers, I neglected to include the variable now known to me as “sleep” in the equation. Though the wisdom of age has made me aware of its importance, I continue to convince myself at times that its correlation coefficient is 0 . . . More
Author: Angry Scientist | Views: 1103 | Comments: 6
Last by Image Goddess on Nov 10, 2010, 3:03pm

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Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2746 | Comments: 4
Last by Alchemystress on Feb 16, 2011, 7:11pm
This week's guest blogger is Anthony Haugh who currently lives in New Mexico, and has studied Electronics Technology and Photonics Technology. He later plans on obtaining his third degree in Optical Engineering after visiting Europe. He can be found on Twitter as @Boltary.


To my eternal amusement, every time someone asks me "what are your majors?" I get blank stares when I give the reply "Photonics Technology and Electronics Technology." Most of everyone I meet immediately understands the degree with that now-commonplace word "Electronics," but almost without exception I am asked "What is Photonics?" I admit that when I entered college I only had a limited understanding of what "Photonics" was besides Photons and Lasers. Even my spell-checker says it is a made-up word, so what is Photonics, and why is it important?

It turns out that "Photonics" is an extremely diverse field, and is about as vague as saying "Chemistry" or "Physics" when trying to talk about a field of science. Specifically, photonics is a sub-set of physics that focuses on the studies and applications of photons (Such as detection, generation, etc). Photons are odd little concepts that defy . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2681 | Comments: 7
Last by Michael Blume on Mar 01, 2011, 1:20am
This week's guest blogger is Michael Blume who did his dissertation in scientific studies of religions (German: Religionswissenschaft) about brain sciences & religion(s). Since then, he has focused on evolutionary studies of religion and therein especially on the interactions of religious traditions and fertility as well as gender issues. Besides writing books and articles, he's blogging at (English) and (German). You can find him on Twitter @BlumeEvolution


The idea that the biological trait of religiosity and the cultural traditions of religion(s) are a result of evolutionary history still seems to be shockingly daring and new to many. But in fact, it has been there from the very start of evolutionary theory. Charles Darwin, a learned theologian, was pretty clear about it: If evolutionary theory turned out to be true, it had to be able to explain the evolution of "natural" religiosity as well as . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 3698 | Comments: 12
Last by Suzy on May 28, 2011, 8:02pm
I began a series of posts that explained how products are born, that is, how they go from a concept or idea to a product on the shelf waiting to be bought. So far we've discussed what R&D does and what marketing does to make sure that a product has the greatest possibility for success. Well there is another person on this team who plays a critical role in the product development process and launch.

While the title of this person can vary, their department is in operations and their function is to control and organize all the tasks required to get the product manufactured. I want to talk about this leg of the product development lifecycle because I think it would be helpful to those of you looking at jobs in biotech and trying to figure out some of the job descriptions you might see advertised on websites. A position in manufacturing, QC, QA, or managing teams working in these areas are all viable job options for . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 6766 | Comments: 25
Last by Suzy on May 12, 2011, 10:41am
I walked past the mini-conference room area that AACR set up in the middle of the exhibit hall and my eyes immediately zeroed in on the name of one of my science idols: Elizabeth Blackburn. She was going to be speaking about careers to young scientists and allow them to ask her questions.

I noted the day and time. It wouldn’t matter to me what she was talking about. I would be there.

The next day at 10 am, I watched her walk in to the roofless cubicled room and you could feel the excitement as she hurriedly walked to the front. I stood in the back by the entrance. All of the chairs were reserved for scientists who were post-docs and grad students but I was just grateful to be there early enough to have a spot to stand and listen.

How I wished I had this advice when I was young and ill-informed!

If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Dr. Blackburn speak, go out of your way to see her. Words can’t describe her magnetic presence and gentle, sincere smile. I could use some California new age terms here to describe her positive energy or radiant aura, but I’ll spare you.

Just a little introduction for people who don’t know . . . More
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 4440 | Comments: 7
Last by Erika Villanueba on Nov 29, 2011, 11:24pm
If I had to pick any one pathogen to call my "favorite", it would be the influenza virus. In truth, it picked me. It's a passion of my boss/mentor, so naturally much of my work and study has revolved around various influenza viruses. Zoonotic influenza research is the primary focus of his applied laboratory in which I work. Our "niche" is occupational animal exposures as risk factors for zoonotic influenza infections. From the countless grant proposals, manuscripts, and undergrad lecturing, to a key component of my dissertation, I've developed quite an interest in this virus and even consider it as a career focus after graduating.

This first post of the blog series will cover the basics of influenza A viruses and their pandemic potential. Later I'll go into the epidemiology of influenza viruses, but this first post serves as a starting point. A word of caution: I'm not a virologist, so I've kept things simple. Now let's jump right in...

Influenza virus basics. There are three species, or types, of influenza viruses (A, B, and C). Humans can be infected with all types, but influenza A is the most virulent. Wild aquatic birds are the natural reservoirs for most influenza A viruses, but through various modes of transmission . . . More
Author: Jeffrey Martz | Views: 8446 | Comments: 9
Last by Alchemystress on Jun 01, 2011, 11:48am
Sorry for the long delay since my last post; I've been hella busy. This post is going to be a long one.

I promised that we would talk about phylogenetic systematics (the method that most modern paleontologists use to determine the evolutionary relationships of organisms, as well as name groups of species). However, phylogenetic systematics is structured around evolution and common descent (unlike Linnean taxonomy, which was invented by a creationist, even though it illustrates evolution quite nicely; we’ll get back to that later). Therefore, it makes sense to talk about evolution before getting into phylogenetic systematics.

This first blog in the evolution series is really about creationism, and SOME of the reasons why the vast majority of paleontologists and biologists do not consider it a viable alternative to evolution as a way of explaining life in the modern world and the fossil record…or even a type of science. Other aspects of the scientific rejection of creationism are discussed in great detail by AronRa in his marvelous series of YouTube videos on “the Foundational Fal . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 3162 | Comments: 10
Last by Gynecomastia on Oct 19, 2011, 4:38am
I was 3 years old. I didn't know what it meant, but I was 3. The next year, I'd be 4, and I would want an Atari 2600 for my birthday. But at that point in time, I was 3 and the world was going to change. I would later hear about how everything changed and the ensuing hard, uphill struggle to inform. To survive. But instead I was 3. Being filmed in the garage at my grandmother's house on my Uncle's old Betamax camcorder. Running around the small backyard in the Outer Sunset District.

. . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2467 | Comments: 2
Last by Alchemystress on Jul 10, 2011, 11:06am
This week's guest blogger is Ryan Renslow. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Washington State University in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering (say that five times fast!). You can follow him on twitter (@BiofilmResearch) to learn all about biofilms and his research!


Until recently, most of the general public has never heard of or used the word "biofilm". Thanks to Listerine, and their "biofilm fighting" mouthwash, this is no longer true. Listerine commercials, featuring their new antiseptic product, have indoctrinated our culture to believe that "biofilm" is merely 2011-speak for plaque. However, biofilm is not simply a new advertising buzzword, but rather it has actually been used in the scientific research community since the late 70's and refers to much more than simple oral plaque. To be clear, plaque is known as a biofilm in dental and oral science literature, so Listerine is correct, but biofilms are much more than what the commercials depict.

Bacteria live in two primary modes of life: the planktonic form and the biofilm form. The planktonic form refers to free floating cell . . . More
Author: Evie | Views: 9675 | Comments: 12
Last by Evie on Nov 10, 2011, 6:08pm
It would seem as though the end of an era is upon us. Tomorrow, will be the last scheduled launch of the NASA Space Shuttle. Or at least, that's what the current plan says. Never know with that Florida weather. Regardless of the date, there is only one mission left in the old bird. After which, NASA will recall it's vehicles, and the shuttle will be retired. For good.

I'm not typically one who cares much about so called historical events. However, I do find myself thinking: 'Awww.. no more shuttle.. Awwww'. Yes, there are 2 'Aww's in there. I'm as surprised as you are.

Being the space nut that I am, I spent much of my childhood day dreaming about what it would be like to take a ride up to space in that thing. So much so, that I in fact became the first person to land on the newly repaved landing strip runway at Cape Canaveral.

It was back in the early 80's. My family and I flew to FL to spend the summer with my grandma. During our stay, we took a road trip up to the Cape, and the eager little toddler that I was got on a facility tour bus with the big kids. My parents came along too. The bus took us all around the complex. No I don't remember any of this, but I do h . . . More
Author: | Views: 8840 | Comments: 42
Last by Evie on Sep 21, 2010, 11:12am
Last night, I retweeted Genomic Repairman’s request for the twitterverse to sign up for an account at LabSpaces. He wanted users to join in on the discussions he was having in the group he created. We were greeted moments later by a tweet from DrugMonkey saying that THE Facebook for science is dead. Considering I just wrote a blog post on that exact topic, I found his tweet Ironic. The emphasis in that previous post being that there probably will never be ONE single social hub for scientists, but that doesn’t preclude the formation of multiple niche venues. Please excuse me while I get this out of my system:

(rant)What exactly is a FaceBook for science anyway? Is any site with a science spin, groups, a forum, and/or user profiles a “FaceBook.” If that’s the case, then there are hundreds of FaceBooks for science out there. I’d argue that the term is deprecated. Many sites employ social tool . . . More
Author: Disgruntled Julie | Views: 1457 | Comments: 17
Last by GMP on Aug 29, 2010, 7:29pm
Yesterday, LabMom discussed the problems with science and gender at a very young age when trying to enroll her daughter in science camp. Seeing as I have no children myself (nor will I anytime soon), I tend to steer clear of discussions relating to children and parenting. However, something else LabMom mentioned caught my eye.

“It is no secret that boys tend to lean towards subjects in the physical sciences, while girls tend to have more interest in the biological sciences, but I had just assumed there were be a few other girls at dinosaur camp.”

I feel like this is a topic that is coming up more and more frequently. While I used to just read about the problem with getting girls interested in science, more and more I see individuals phrasing it as a necessity to get females more interested in the physical sciences. (Note: I’m not trying to say that LabMom is doing this, but rather her post and subsequent comments made me realize how this is becoming a more common topic.)

But I have to confess… I don’t understand why this is a BAD thing. I’m not talking about situations where women are not exposed to science at the same level as men, but rather . . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 1528 | Comments: 11
Last by Cricket42 on Oct 13, 2010, 1:56pm
I remember the first time I was asked, in an official capacity*, to review a manuscript. I was excited because I had finally been asked by my peers to partake in one of the essential elements of publishable science ... the peer review. I was also extremely nervous. Would I review the manuscript with the same attention to detail as the other reviewers? Would I miss critical elements? Would I make a fool out of myself and recommend acceptance of a paper which was clearly junk (or vice versa)?

Fears aside, I proceeded with the review, which given all my anxiety took far longer than it needed to. In the end, I think I handed in a good review**, and I've been following a similar pattern of reviewing ever since then. Since I'm fresh off my latest review (a rejection, unfortunately) I figured now is a pretty good time to put my thoughts down on paper (the intertubez).

1. The first issues to consider will come when you get the email asking you whether or not you'd be able to do the review. First, do you have the time? IIRC, the typical reviewer reviews about seven papers and change a year (I'll have to find the data on that, but it was blogged about recently), which comes out to less than one a month. When I accept a review, I figure that it'll take me about an afternoo . . . More