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069: Five Ways Scientists SHOULD Be Using Twitter

Traditionally, spending time on social media was a great way to make your PI angry. Your job is to finish experiments, read papers, and present your work at conferences, not to upvote and share the latest blue-dress illusion.

But there are some unexpected benefits to the Twitter network that could help your science and your career.

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blind man hand holding cane

057: “I’m a scientist. And I’m blind.”

When we imagine what life is like for people who are blind, our first reaction might be paralysis. We consider just how difficult our lives would be without sight; preparing breakfast, dressing for work, and navigating from home to the lab sound like insurmountable obstacles.

And if those trivial tasks seem daunting, consider your work day.  Could you keep up with the pace of scientific research, running experiments and publishing papers with your eyes closed?

In our imaginary blindness, many of us would despair and find an alternative career path, but we’re missing a very important distinction between the thought experiment and reality.

The fact is, people who have been blind since birth have developed the skills to leap each and every hurdle we’ve listed. It’s a normal part of every day to commute to work or read a scientific paper.

Their biggest struggle may be overcoming the decidedly limited imaginations of their sighted peers.

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022: Science Overseas: Life as an International Student

Think about your first few months of graduate school. You moved into a new apartment in a new town, you met hundreds of other students and scientists, and you had to pick a rotation lab and classes for your first semester.  It’s an unbelievably stressful time for most students.

Now imagine doing all of that in German.

drosophila

 

First-Class Research

Most of us learn enough vocabulary in a foreign language to take the train or buy a coffee, but students who travel internationally for graduate school are expected to do much more. “Where is the library?” is an easy phrase to learn. “The Drosophila histone demethylase dKDM5/LID regulates hematopoietic development” is not. (Morán T, et al.)

This week on the show, Josh interviews Haifa, an international student who grew up in Saudi Arabia and is now studying Drosophila at the University of Kansas. She shares her experience with coming to the US and talks about learning the nuanced English required to communicate with other scientists.  She also reveals the subtle differences between lab culture at home and abroad.

 

Stinking Stuffer

Now that it’s officially the season for shopping, we tell you about a very unusual toy that should be on every microbiologist’s list. It’s Poo Dough, and it is perhaps the worst toy devised in a decade. Seriously, who thought this was a good idea? (Warning: it contains wheat for some reason.)

Josh is startled this week by the recent spate of Cats vs. Cucumber videos appearing online.  Be sure to watch what happens when the cucumber menace sneaks up on unsuspecting scientists:

And in honor of the University of Kansas, we’re drinking another beer sent in by a Lawrence listener. It’s the Copperhead Pale Ale from Freestate Brewing. Thanks to all our friends in the Sunflower State!

 

References

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – He describes the influence of High- and Low-Power Distance cultures on the rates of airline crashes.

017: Does science have a gender bias? It depends on who you ask.

National_Association_Against_Woman_Suffrage
Later that day: “Um… oh… uh… no, Dear! I swear I thought it said ‘suffering.’ Please let me back in the house.”

Shocking Fact No. 1: If you put a woman’s name and a man’s name on the exact same job application for lab manager, the woman is described as less competent and will be offered less money.

Shocking fact No. 2: If you show  the results of that experiment to faculty members in scientific fields, the men are less likely to believe the results.  They say the research is flawed and the findings are suspect.

Question: What happens if you change the results of the resume experiment?  Will those male faculty members still think the research was shoddy?  Or will they believe the new results because it fits with their pre-conceived notions about hiring?

On this week’s show, we discuss some new research that gives hints as to why gender bias in the scientific community is so pernicious.  How can you solve a problem when not everyone will admit that the problem exists in the first place?

And before you leap to judgement about those unenlightened pigs, be sure to check your OWN implicit biases with these simple tests.

Everyday Sadism

We’re also celebrating Halloween with a murderous IPA from Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine.  It’s the “Little Horror of Hops,” and the mascot is this handsome devil:

HorrorHops_12oz 5X

We enjoy the bitter brew, and Daniel reveals the darker side of our taste preferences.  Recent research implies that people who enjoy flavors like coffee and beer are actually more likely to express psychopathic tendencies!  That explains a lot about the Hello PhD hosts…

We hope you have a Hoppy Halloween (see what I did there?) and please tweet your #ScaryScience costumes to @hellophd.

 

012: How to help veterans succeed in science, and why it’s important to all of us.

If you believe the newspaper headlines, you’ll be ready to dismiss Jake as another statistic. After all, the odds of a soldier returning from war and getting an undergrad degree are not good, which makes his dream of earning a PhD sound like a pipe-dream. But don’t believe everything you read in the papers.

soldier
The skills that help a soldier survive on the battlefield can be distractions in the classroom.

The Cost of Coming Home

While the men and women fighting overseas will periodically make the evening news, few of us pause to consider what happens to the veterans who return home. After World War II, the GI Bill helped pay for many of those vets to go back to college, training them for civilian jobs and leveraging their unique skills to bolster economic growth. But our societal appetite for war has waxed and waned with each conflict, and with it, our support for the troops returning home.

Instead of handshakes and expressions of gratitude, many vets return to uncomfortable questions and awkward stares.

So what happens when a soldier like Jake leaves the danger, camaraderie, and daily structure of an active war zone and sits down in English 101 with a group of teenagers scrolling Facebook on their laptops? Short answer: he doesn’t fit.

Science for Soldiers

Enter John Schupp, a chemistry professor who wanted to change the patterns that lead to high veteran drop-out rates. By applying a scientific approach, Schupp experimented his way to a system that could help veterans not only fit, but excel.

In this week’s episode, we unpack Jake’s questions about how he will get back to school and achieve his goals in biomedical science, and Dr. Schupp will be our guide. He tells us how to make science training accessible to all veterans, but also, why it should matter to every one of us.

Jake wrote:

I am a disabled military vet who was going to school under the GI bill.  However over the course of my time in college I suffered a mental breakdown that lead to my GPA plummeting and my leaving the small liberal arts college I was studying at. This has left me uncertain as to what my future will be but the one thing I know for certain is that I want to finish my undergrad and get my PhD.  Now I’m probably getting ahead of myself.  I have several things that I am concerned preclude that for even being an option for me.

1) I am concerned that I am too old I’m currently 27 years old
2) I am concerned that I may have burned my bridges having dropped out
3) Though I’ve received help from the VA for the issues I was dealing with at the time, I’m concerned that I’ll have a recurrence of those problems.

Any advice for getting back on track would be greatly appreciated.

You say vee-EN-na, I say vie-AY-na

Also in this episode, we sample Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager. This tasty brew from the Blueridge Mountains of Virginia really takes Josh back to his roots.

References

Dr. Schupp shared a treasure-trove of information that you may find valuable. You can reach him at  schuppjd@tiffin.edu

Full interview with Dr. Schupp

A business plan universities can use to develop their own program to support student veterans

A presentation on veteran suicide and income inequality throughout US history

For vets pursuing a PhD, there are a number of exclusive funding sources available: