Archive for: August, 2010

NIH Peer Review Revealed

Aug 24 2010 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Today I came across this excellent video from the NIH that describes its review process in detail. Thought it could be of help to those of you unfamiliar...

NIH Review Process Revealed

10 responses so far

Using the Balance FAIL

Aug 18 2010 Published by under [Etc]


I have just returned from 6 days in the middle of nowhere trapped in a small house with my mother in law. Just when I thought my irritation level could not get higher, I entered the lab to discover that someone had blown something up in our balance.

People, I ask you, have I not suffered enough?

Last week, this balance was white, and the benchtop a solid brown. Now, there is a crater in the back of the balance, the interior is covered in burnt soot, and the benchtop has been irreparably singed. No attempt at cleanup seems to have been made.

Memo to the perpetrator: If you were not injured by this incident, feel free to swing by my bench, and I will injure you myself.

Let's use our heads, people. Work with air sensitive chemicals in a hood. Clean up after yourself. And if you blow up a piece of equipment, have the decency to bring it to someone's attention so that it can be dealt with appropriately.

xoxo CE

4 responses so far

The Scale of the Universe

Aug 06 2010 Published by under [Biology&Environment], [Physical Science]

A friend sent this link to me the other day, and I found it absolutely fascinating. The scale of things can really boggle the human mind! Just wanted to share. (It loads in the browser pretty slowly, so have patience and don't get all clicky-clicky like me, or you'll crash your browser.)

5 responses so far

Is it Luck, or do I Suck?

Aug 03 2010 Published by under [Etc]

There is this phrase that some people I know like to throw around:

"The harder you work, the luckier you get."

Uttered by Gary Player, a golfer, at some point in history of the universe. Now, in theory, I like this quote a lot, particularly as it pertains to golf.

But I have totally soured to its use in the context of science. In fact, it irks the shit out of me. And here's why:

1. Sometimes you work really, really hard, and you don't get lucky. [Example, this one from my personal library: You've been trying to do this THING for two years. You've tried everything you can think of. You assemble data, make a list of attempted techniques, tuck a box of tissues under you arm, and sit down for a meeting with your advisor. Advisor looks at your junk and says, "Well, looks like you've found 15 things that don't work. Now all you need is one that works, goddammit." Super.]

2. Sometimes you get lucky without doing jack. [Example: You are a lazy ass and don't do much work. One night you get lit, swing by the lab, and in your drunken stupor start singing "I Want You to Want Me" to your African chipmunk pancreas cells. Without delay, the cells start producing diamonds.]

3. Most irritating, however, is the implication that if you don't get lucky, then you haven't been working hard.


The astute (and good-looking) reader may suspect that my disdain for the quote stems from my general lack of luck in the scientific arena. And there is some truth in that, of course. But I cannot cry and complain that I have nothing to show for all of my years in the lab, because that's just not true. When it comes to science results, however, everything I've gotten has been the direct result of work, not luck.

And this phrase seems like nothing more than something lucky people say to one another.

17 responses so far

The Candid Scouting Report

Aug 02 2010 Published by under [Etc]

"These new digs are tight!" said scientist-engineer Candid Engineer -- who's always saying something -- as she executed squats and lunges in an attempt to warm up her pipetting ligaments this past weekend in the clubhouse of Scientopia's Community Field.

As the blogging trade deadline loomed at Monday morning 6 am EST, Candid Engineer was eager to show off her varied skillz to the scouts that had gathered at the Scientopia training facility in Tampa, FL. And boy, did she put on a pipetting clinic.

CE’s hands and good looks are not the only attributes that make this blogger such a force.  Her liquid dispensing placement is incredible, and together with her ability to switch-pipet on short notice, she can make 24-well plates pay if they are even one centimeter out of position.  Based on her pipetting skills alone, passing on Candid Engineer so close to the trade deadline would be have been a tough decision.

There are only a couple of issues with Candid Engineer’s play.  One is the defensive component of her reagent handling, particularly when she is being audibly assaulted by loud-mouth labmates. A defensive game can be taught and learned, however, and as long as she is not a constant liability at her home bench, it is a characteristic that will fly under the radar.

Scientopia G.M.s Scicurious and MarkCC insist that they traded for Candid Engineer's pipet (she has averaged 100k aliquots in her first 2 seasons with Blogger), not her disposition -- but the latter has been a welcome addition. "Aw, she's the shizzle," MarkCC says. "It's nice to have that come our way, because we're a funky group in there. We can be less-than-candid sometimes, and we need some shaking up. We think CE could potentially be the gal to do it."

At a mere 5 feet 5 inches, some are questioning what exactly Candid Engineer is going to be able to bring to the Scientopia scene. "You know, she might be able to perform serial dilutions with great accuracy, but we're concerned over here about how her vertical dimensions may inhibit her pipetting velocity," said DrugMonkey. "But then again, the endurance may be there. We're just going to have to take a wait and see approach."

The gamble may very well pay off for Scientopia, who acquired Candid Engineer from Blogger without having to trade anything in return. "We couldn't wait to get rid of her," said an official from Blogger, on the condition of anonymity. "Frankly, she's gotten so damn serious over the course of the past year. All she lives and breathes is pipetting anymore. Where is that spunk? Where is the vigor that she used to throw around the laboratory?"

For the time being, Scientopia reports being cautiously optimistic in regards to its low-profile acquisition. According to Scientopia spokeswoman Pascale Lane, "we fully anticipate that with a combination of flexibility training, a diet high in antioxidants, and personality coaching, we'll be able to enjoy the fruits of our Candid Trade for many years to come".

And so, for today, she pipets. Small volumes and large, she acts like nothing has changed, and she goes about her business.

12 responses so far