In Which I am Neither Vicious nor a Sucker

(by Candid Engineer) Dec 07 2010

Scene 1:

Candid Engineer is hard at work surfing the internet. An email appears in her inbox:

Dear CE,

I really absolutely must get Experiments X and Y done this week. However, I cannot do them because I am swamped with final exams & other very, very serious obligations. I was wondering if you could take 3-4 days of your time this week and do my experiments for me.

Best regards,
Hard-Working but Clueless Grad Student

Ahahaha!!! Good one, really. Uhh, let me check my schedule... uhh... hmm, no fucking way.

Scene 2:

Supervisor: So, are you sure you want to be a professor?
CE: No, I'm not sure, but I think I'd be good at it & I don't know anything else I'd be as good at.
Supervisor: You would be great in a company- large, medium, or start-up.
CE: Oh no, are you turning this into a patronizing you'd-be-good-at-anything lovefest?
Supervisor: No, I'm not. You'd be a terrible VC. Absolutely terrible. You're not vicious enough.


I'm not too mean, I'm not too nice
Don't give me your mangoes to slice & dice
This princess postdoc has her price.

10 responses so far

A Thanksgiving Message from Bushie

(by Candid Engineer) Nov 26 2010

Click here for a Thanksgiving message from our former Commander-in-Chief.

One response so far

Thankful for

(by Candid Engineer) Nov 26 2010

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm fortunately no longer resembling the beached whale that my husband had to roll through our front door last night. Impaired mobility with unstable glucose levels is no way to begin the holiday season.

Since my body is now capable of directing bloodflow to my brain instead of to my digestive tract, I'd like to coherently tell you about some of the things that make me feel good. Scicurious had the nice idea of writing about an item, a person, and an idea that makes us feel thankful.

An Item: For me, this is a no-brainer. Multi-channel pipets. These puppies have cumulatively saved years of my life, and have enabled me to test thousands and thousands of mango extractions instead of hundreds. These tools make my research possible. Now, I am a connesieur of multi-channel pipets. So let me tell you about my favorite varieties.

  • The Vanilla: 12-channel multi-channel pipet. Twelve dispenses for every stroke! Oh, you are my foundation.
  • The Chocolate: 8-channel adjustable-spacer. This pipet is seriously my hero. Imagine making 200 samples in microcentrifuge tubes. Oh, you want those in 96-well plates, do you? Without this god-send, you will be transferring those into your 96-well plate one-by-fucking-one. Want to test your samples in quadruplicate? Ha! That is 800 strokes. But with this puppy, you're down to 100 strokes- you spread out your tips, suck up from the microcentrifuge tubes, then condense your tips, and dispense into 96-well plates. Lalalala!!!!
  • The Rocky Road: 8-channel electronic adjustable spacer. Turns those 100 strokes into 20. Now this is bad-ass. Increases my pipetting throughput 40-fold, and drastically reduces errors.

A Person: There is another postdoc in my lab- let's call him Jake- who is pretty much the best colleague ever (for me, at least). He is competent, insightful, super-smart, responsible, supportive, and an absolute pleasure to be around. We come from vastly different backgrounds, but we have found ways to collaborate. Through these collaborations, he has helped me to broaden my experimental skillset tremendously.

Jake is the kind of person that I can approach with anything. I am depressed about research and need support? Jake is there for me. I'm having trouble with a colleague? Jake gives advice, with a touch of humor. Something has gone well? Jake always wants to hear about it (or at least pretends to want to hear about it), and he is always happy for me. He helps to make the challenges of work bearable, and he helps to make the successes all the better.

An Idea: Entropy. Specifically, from the second and third laws of thermodynamics, that, when a system does work, entropy increases with time. Or, in other words, when I do work, the disorder in my life will increase with time. This idea great reassures me that, indeed, I am not a fuck-up, and that I am simple conforming to the laws of thermodynamics. Now, if I could only get this point across to my husband...

Happy late Thanksgiving to my readers (US or elsewhere)! I am thankful for all of you, too. It's nice to have a space where I can come to share my life with you, scientific and otherwise, and to have conversations about the related challenges. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday (or a wonderful Thursday), and had the chance to spend time with family, friends, and too much pie.

No responses yet

Oh, It's About Trust

(by Candid Engineer) Nov 19 2010

Postdocs are supposed to be able to carry out their own experiments, no? They're supposed to, say, actually DO things?

A friend of mine was helping a new postdoc in his lab get started, and generously spent a good deal of time showing this postdoc the ropes. Postdoc wanted to start doing Assay X, which takes all day. So, first, my friend showed Postdoc how to do Assay X. Then, when Postdoc was ready, my friend watched Postdoc perform Assay X to make sure he was doing everything correctly. And it all looked fine.

Now, Postdoc is hounding the shit out of my friend to do all of his Assay X experiments for him. The reason?

Postdoc "trusts my friend more than he trusts himself".

LOLzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!!!! Ahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fucking absurd. And of course it's not a one-time incident with this dude- conman seems to be his profession of choice over postdoc. Where do these fucktards come from? The harder I work, the more these people piss me the fuck off.

3 responses so far

Donors Choose Thank-You

(by Candid Engineer) Nov 15 2010

I'd like to thank all of my readers who participated in this year's Donors Choose challenge. My giving page has thus far accumulated $564 in donations, which have supported 1,000 children through 12+ projects.

Because HP was generously matching all donations provided through the science blogger challenge, those of you who donated should have received an email in the past couple of days containing a unique coupon code for approximately the amount you donated, which you can now use towards any project of your choice. I took my coupon code and donated to several more of the projects on my giving page, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Of particular note is the project Apple-Ka-Dabra, which I would love to see funded. Mrs. S teaches students in a high-poverty region of West Virginia, and she is requesting 8 scientific investigation kits that her high school chemistry students will use to teach nearby kindergarten students. I think this is a fabulous project, particularly because the older students will be interfacing with the younger- it will be a great way to bring the spirit of teaching alive in these high school chemistry students and to foster a sense of scientific community. If you are inclined, the project is only $146 away from completion as of today.

I promised a prize to a randomly-selected reader who donated through my giving page- and the winner is Rad Scientist!! Rad, please contact me through my email (contact page at upper right) and we will set something up.

Thanks again to all of you. Things have been tough around here with too much traveling and too many ailing/dying relatives. I am hoping to resume regular posting again soon.

xoxo CE

No responses yet

She's on Her Way

(by Candid Engineer) Nov 11 2010

There I was, tucking my pretty pressed shirt into my skirt, sliding into my velvet blazer, layering on my favorite pearl necklaces that felt so cool against my skin. There I was, drink pressed into my left hand, ice cubes jingling, working the human connection with my right. Shaking hands, smiling, throwing down witty banner to the amusement of my companions.

All this bullshit, while my grandmother lay in a hard bed many miles away, moving toward the end of her 97 years. Simplicity at the end, the in and out of breaths that are heavy while she sleeps.

There I was, checking my reflection in the mirror, smoothing a shiny pink gloss onto my skinny little mouth. All while my aunt applied Vaseline to the lips of my grandmother- you see, they are cracked and dry because she hasn't had anything to drink in 4 days.

This week, my life will go on, but hers will not. Today, this day, I can look toward the future. I have the privilege of considering where I will be in 10 years, with my love and my children and my dreams. She does not.

I am not there. I am never there, it seems, because science takes me elsewhere. And sometimes it is too easy for family to equate distance with caring. If I lived down the block, you know, I would love them more. If I saw them every Sunday, if I shared meals and more frequent conversation. If I took an interest in the people who raised me, the people who will always love me the most. Why do I have to be so far? Why am I always somewhere else?

But next week, I'll be there to hold my father's hand. To grieve however it is that I'll need to grieve at the end. To lay my hand on the ground, to give thanks for what was, and for what is. That is what I can do.

15 responses so far

Imposter Syndrome While Doing Good

(by Candid Engineer) Oct 25 2010

I must confess to you, my friends. When I was asked, along with my fellow Scientopians, to participate in this year's Donors Choose challenge, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it. Not because I'm not interested in Donors Choose- in fact, I've enjoyed contributing to it for years- but because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to raise a respectable number of donations compared to my blogging peers.

Yes, I have imposter syndrome even while trying to do good. Makes me want to slap myself, really.

But, I decided that I didn't want to leave it entirely to my colleagues to harass the shit out of you and your wallets during this month of giving. Actually, I was just excited to set up a donation page in which I could select projects that touch upon subjects near and dear to my heart.

In particular, I like to drum up chemistry, engineering, genetics, and energy. And I like to choose high poverty schools in red states- why? Perhaps it is a little ridiculous, but for me, the most feared variety of Republican is the one that is not educated in math and science. Therefore, I am trying to catalyze political change in the red states through frog dissection and climate change textbooks. LOL, makes sense, no?

Now, I am no PalMD or Drug Monkey, but my giving page has thus far drawn an impressive number of donations, which is totes exciting. As of right now, 16 of you, my readers, have donated $341 to support an estimated 666 school children. It is interesting to note that, although I am not near the top of the Scientopia leader board for total donations, my giving page has the second most # of donors. There is power in numbers, my friends! Donate $10 a piece to your heart's content, and I will love you forever.

Last week, I asked you to donate in honor of my cat's castrated balls. For those of you who expressed concern, his ball-less pouch is healing quite nicely, thank you, and his antics have not been dampened in the least. He is currently chasing his rainbow mouse around the house with a fervor that I'd consider abnormal for having just lost his reproductive unit. But whatevs.

My husband has been quite impressed by the cash that has been donated in our cat's balls' honor. If you were willing to donate ~$300 for The Candid Kitten's Balls, my husband has astutely wondered how much you'd be willing to donate in honor of his (much larger and still-attached) balls.

Let me wrap up this bizarre post by thanking Beaker Half Full, Cana Ross, Kirsten Tracy, Julia Shelton, Kate Medicus, Rose Szabady, Melinda Hale, Sarah Nichols, Jennifer Greenwood, and several anonymous donors for their contributions to Donors Choose during this past week. As per football tradition, I'd give you a reverberating slap on the ass if I met you in person.

And my giving page is here if you're in the mood.

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The Squeaky Clean Wheel Gets the Grease

(by Candid Engineer) Oct 17 2010

I am neat. My husband is clean.

The converse is also true- I am not clean. My husband is not neat.

I have no problem going 2-3 months without cleaning my shower. My husband has no problem throwing pillows and clothes and whatever else on the floor and letting it lie.

The optimist would conclude that our house would be immaculate- best of both worlds, no? But the realist that lives in my house knows that our natural tendencies lead to nothing but friction.

I estimate that 90% of all arguments with my husband are about cleaning. And they can get vicious.

When I started taking anti-anxiety medication two years ago, I realized that I was a lot happier when I wasn't harping on my husband to close the hamper lid properly and just chose to do those things for him, myself. This has actually resulted in a lot of peace, I would think on both of our ends.

The problem is that my husband cannot come to terms with my reluctance to and extended delays in cleaning. Due to personal preference and pervasive allergies, he wants the house cleaned much more often than I do. Also, things that don't bother me around the house (or that I don't even notice) are a big bother to him.

Even though I don't care about cleaning to the extent that he does, he expects me to clean my share of stuff when he feels that things need a cleaning. I have attempted to be sympathetic to this over the years, and I swear, I make efforts to clean, I really do. It's just that these efforts fall far short of what he wants.

Our weekends often devolve into this hell where he is constantly pissed off that the house is not as clean as he wants and/or I haven't cleaned what he wants. And where I am distressed / feeling guilty/ feeling hurt that he continues to expect me to do the things that are important to him while not acknowledging all of the things that I do that are important to me.

I cook dinner 90% of the time. I pick up around the house. I do most of the laundry. And why does it have to be a pissing contest, anyway? Why can't we just fucking get along?

I have suggested hiring a cleaning service to come in once a month. I think this is a great solution. Although I can't hire someone to exercise, sleep, or write my manuscripts for me, I can hire someone to clean my house. The problem is that my husband thinks it's fucking absurd that we/I cannot manage to keep our house clean and that we would even consider spending money on such a ridiculous thing.

I think that given how frequent and hurtful our fights are about cleaning, it would be money very well spent.

The point of this post is to poll my fellow dual-careered coupled friends out there. How do you and your partner handle cleaning duties? Do any of your have any suggestions as to how to remedy/soften this problem?

p.s. Please don't suggest that I just suck it up and do more cleaning. I have tried this, and it does not work/is not adequate. I would simply rather lick the bathroom floor clean with my own tongue than fill up a bucket with water and cleaning solution, get down on my hands and knees and rub the floor with a  wet rag.

29 responses so far

2010 Donors Choose: I Need Your Help!

(by Candid Engineer) Oct 10 2010

I'm really excited this month to be a part of a science-blogger challenge taking place through a do-good organization called Donors Choose. provides a mechanism for public school teachers in poverty-ridden areas of the U.S. to ask for help in acquiring classroom resources. So many of our children in the U.S. are at a learning disadvantage because they live in a school district and come from homes that cannot afford to provide educational supplies. Imagine trying to do advanced math without a calculator or learning about temperature without a thermometer. Due to a lack of supplies, many disadvantaged children grow up without knowing the joys of science, the discovery of engineering, and the power of mathematics.

Through Donors Choose, we can help.

I have created a giving page at where I have selected multiple projects that teachers have submitted for funding by philantropists like you. Together- you, my readers, and any other donors who take an interest in these projects- can bring science, math, and engineering alive in classrooms across the U.S.

For example, Mrs. D, from a high poverty area of Oakland, CA, is requesting funds for a "Learning with Frogs" classroom project for her 7th grade students. She tells us,

My students do not have many chances to engage in scientific investigation and experimentation. The students enjoy learning science but often ask how and when they are going to get a chance to engage on hands-on science.

Mrs. D. would "love the opportunity to promote the importance and excitement of science education through dissections". As such, she is requesting donations for 60 preserved frogs, which will help her students discover the wonder of anatomy- specifically, the digestive and circulatory systems. This project is currently partially funded, with $234 needed to fully fund the frogs. Together, let's make it happen!

Many science bloggers will be participating in the Donors Choose challenge in the coming month (Oct 10-Nov 10). We are engaging in a friendly competition to see whose readers can support the most classroom projects. So I am asking for your help! Please consider donating something today to support our school children. Every denomination helps- do not worry if you only have $5 to spare. I congratulate you all the more for your generosity.

To sweeten the deal, I will be offering an original CE oil painting for a randomly-selected reader who donates through my giving page. W00t!!! Alternatively, I can send you some of my ahh-mazing ginger cookies. Whichever you prefer! Feel free to leave your real name or a pseudonym on my giving page when you donate, and we will work out details at the end of the challenge.

Thanks in advance for supporting a wonderful organization and the many children who deserve an opportunity to fall in love with science.

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Women's Health: WTF is in my DNA?

(by Candid Engineer) Sep 28 2010

Our own Scicurious, after becoming a bit alarmed over what she was reading in Women's Health, a popular women's magazine, has had the great idea to coordinate a Scientopia-wide Women's Health writeup. This week, it is our quest to address some of the "science" and "medical advice" (both good and bad) provided in the July/August 2010 issue of Women's Health.


Ever wish you were a fortune teller? The type of person who could gaze knowingly at another's palm, tracing the creases with a gentle pressure, seeing and feeling the future joys and pains spelled out on that person's lifeline?

Yeah, that was me as a child. I was constantly staring at people's hands, declaring that they would have four babies and live until they were 87. Apparently, I dig teh powerz.

And while no one out there can really tell you what the name of your future grandchildren will be, science and technology is at a point where it can provide insight into your future health. The July/August issue of Women's Health asks: What is lurking in your DNA? Should you get a DNA test?

In 1990, the U.S. Department of Energy and the NIH set out on a 13-year mission called the Human Genome Project, which coordinated the identification and sequencing of all of the 20,000+ genes contained in the human genome. A genome is comprised of all of the DNA within an organism's body and has often been described as the blueprint of life, as it provides instruction for a large majority of what individual cells will "do" in their lifetimes.

The genetic information gleaned from the Human Genome Project has allowed scientists to begin what will be a long process of identifying the functions of individual genes within the body and correlating any mistakes, or mutations, within particular genes with disease development. Although this is a work-in-scientific-progress, a good number of genes have already been identified that can have a big say in your propensity for disease.

Current technology enables individuals like you & me to submit ourselves to a DNA test and to learn about our genetic blueprint. Specifically, we can find out which of our genes contain mutations- these are the genetic mistakes that can lead to future health problems.

The Women's Health article describes the experience of one woman as she obtains her genetic information through a mail-in DNA testing kit. Long story short, she found the experience confusing and didn't feel that she got any useful information out of the test. As such, the reader is most likely left with a negative impression of DNA testing. But I don't think they should be.

Although technology is currently available to spell out all of the A-T-C-Gs of your genetic code, it is *not* at a stage that is advanced enough to properly evaluate all genetic risk factors. For example, my DNA test might tell me that I have a mutation in my Mango gene, but if scientists don't yet know what the Mango gene does, then no one has any clue what the implications of my mutation will be. But, my genetic make-up will not change over my lifetime- and so, if the function of the Mango gene is elucidated 15 years down the road- then and only then will we have the potential to understand what consequences my mutation may have on my future health.

Scientists are putting a lot of effort into understanding "scary" genes- genes that, when they contain a mutation, can wreck havoc upon human health. Take the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. It has been determined that these two genes, should they contain mutations, can dramatically increase a woman's risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer (think normal woman = ~12% lifetime risk of breast cancer; BRCA mutation woman = 60-80% !!11!! lifetime risk of breast cancer). Now, these are genes that we know something about. And because of that knowledge, genetic information regarding every woman's BRCA sequence becomes very powerful.

Because of the powerful information contained within our genomes, DNA testing can result in a strong emotional response. And so, as the article author points out, DNA testing is not for everyone. You need to be willing to live with the information- the good, the bad, and the large chunk of the currently unknown. For a lot of people, obtaining genetic information will not provoke any major life changes. But for some people, like a woman with a BRCA mutation described in another Women's Health article, genetic knowledge can dictate profound life choices. Knowing about her BRCA mutation prompted her to undergo a double mastectomy, which cut her cancer risk by 90%.

DNA testing is confusing and difficult to navigate because of all of the current unknowns in the association of various genes with their respective diseases. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that anyone submitting themselves to a DNA test should also seek out genetic counseling. Genetic counselors can answer individualized questions about specific genomes- they can pull out the important information while downplaying the rest. And over time, genetic counselors stay up-to-date with genetic discovery- meaning that they can give you the most complete information available regarding risk factors and disease prevalence at any point in time.

So, my conclusion is: If you are  emotionally prepared to handle your results, DNA testing can be a very good choice for those who desire to learn more about their genetic makeup and associated risk factors. I can tell you that if I had a family history of diseases with strong genetic components, then I, personally, would get tested. But we cannot expect DNA testing, at this point in time, to have all of the answers. Every individual will get something different out of their results. Acknowledging and understanding these limitations and variability up front is important in avoiding disappointment.


The Scientopia front page has a list of all of the other great Women's Health write-ups being offered this week. Perhaps you'd like to read about why your body is telling you to cheat or about men who are cry babies. Good stuff.

18 responses so far

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