Thursday, December 18, 2014

Branching out...

Researcher with a background in basic neuro steps into the cancer arena (of the not remotely neuro-related sort). Just submitted the first paper. Nothing earth shattering*, but I haven't felt this uncomfortable about a submission since the first one back in grad school. It's not the prospect of rejection, of course - that's almost expected in some form or other first time around - but the prospect of looking like an idiot. This clip rather aptly encapsulates my essential feelings about this foray beyond my comfort zone:

* absolute best case scenario, it might be my ticket into the prestigious and hallowed Hall of Fame of Scientists Who Have Sorta Cured Cancer In Vitro**

** These peeps should totally get an annual conference together; it would be bigger than SfN!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reza Aslan on Islam, civil rights and violence

Post by Media Matters for America.

This is an excellent take down from Reza Aslan on the topic of Islam and civil rights. His response to the pernicious and lazy association between genital mutilation and Islam is particularly welcome, although he is arguably guilty of generalizing himself in referring to it broadly as an "African problem" (we all, myself included, really have to work on  relieving ourselves of the colonial-era quirk of referring to that continent as if its one homogeneous whole).

The media has a tendency to conflate differences in values between "Muslim countries" and the West with what are really differences in values between secular and sectarian states, and/or differences in values between educated and non-educated classes. Aslan touches on this in his comparison between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but doesn't explicitly make the point. The question is, would a Christian state be anymore progressive than a Muslim one? In aggregate almost certainly not although, as Aslan correctly points out, the chief determinant of this will be the people and their existing cultural norms rather than the overlying faith they share. If a culture of violence exists, or a state/societal motive to act violently exists, then it will express itself regardless of the dominant religion.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Life on the Rusty Edge of Pharmacology...

So, my working hypothesis was that This happened because of That.
So I applied a drug reported to inhibit That with the prediction that it would consequently inhibit This.
The drug meant to inhibit That actually ended up causing more of This, suggesting that This probably isn't strictly about That after all, and that the That-inhibiting drug is likely doing a little of The Other...
... which opens up a new and exciting avenue of investigation as we move forward to unravel the nature of The Other and its relationship to This and That*.

* Nah, I'm kidding, nobody is going to fund that study. That data is probably going to be buried until it's unearthed millennia from now by aliens picking over the bones and assorted detritus of human civilization. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Worth the wait...

Apparently this set is pretty popular - which is encouraging in its way - so it was on backorder for a fair while. Of course, the progressive vibe was rocked a little by the fact that the first thing my daughter asked while rummaging through the pieces was why the dark-haired scientist looked so angry. I said it was probably a frown of concentration, but figured it was also worth telling her about Lisa Meitner and Rosalind Franklin, by way of possible explanation for the lack of smiley-facedness in these particular characters. But I don't think she grasped the gravity of the information, and her 6 yr old mind certainly couldn't fathom why missing out on some lame "prize" that didn't come with cake and/or ice cream would be some sort of a big deal. A conversation for another time perhaps.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lab blues and other humbug...

Teaching pharmacology: where one talks about selective drugs with specific effects that tell lovely, tidy stories about how this phenomenon is caused by that mechanism leading to the effective treatment of such-and-such a condition.

Doing pharmacology: where one uses drugs that have multiple cellular targets - many of which are as yet ill-defined/unidentified - with completely different downstream effects depending on the cell type, species, protein expression levels and localization, temperature, stage in the lunar cycle, the NASDAQ index and a few other things besides, and that rarely have a remotely sensible chain of causality linking their cellular effects to the actual clinical outcome.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Snap shots: Elite male faculty in the life sciences employ fewer women, J. M. Sheltzer and J. C. Smith, 2014

"For instance, Moss-Racusin et al. (15) sent science faculty identical resumes for a laboratory manager position in which only the name and gender of the applicant were changed. The applicant with the male name was judged to be more competent and hirable and offered a larger starting salary than the female applicant."
From Sheltzer and Smith, PNAS, 2014