Well you guys know about my obsession with taking moon pics. I think I’ve eclipsed myself now with this pic of the moon jumping in front of the sun!
So who watched the eclipse yesterday? Who got to see totality? Does anyone feel slightly more blind today? I hope not. :(
My sister, Deoxyribolove, came into town for the event and then we drove down into Oregon to get the totality part. The 97% we were supposed to get in Washington just wasn’t enough.
After spending the weekend frolicking around Boise, we set up camp on an old golf course in Ontario, Oregon, which was in the zone of totality. I spent the evening collecting golf balls and photographing Deoxyribolove doing poi with glow sticks.
It was a great evening for camping, minus the mosquitos. We headed to bed early to hide from those little suckers. But we had great views of the Big Dipper from our tent and a nice breeze keeping us cool all night.
In the morning, we had coffee and oatmeal and then set about preparing the campsite for the eclipse. Cobalt and I had bought a pack of eclipse glasses from an American-Astronomical-Society-approved site a while ago so those came out. We also brought a colander for playing with the eclipse light and a variety of recording devices: my Zoom audio recorder for recording us reacting to the eclipse, our GoPro for a video of the same thing, and my DSLR + an old 70-200 mm lens (+ 2x multiplier) that I acquired from my grandpa. Pretty sure it was not built for a digital camera. I am so happy that I got everything to play nicely with my camera.
SAFETY NOTE: I did NOT have the correct filter for my DSLR so it only got to photograph the sun during totality (see pic above). The rest of the time, I just used my 50 mm lens to play with the sunlight.
There were so many things to play with! Of course the colander made crazy shapes on the tent wall. But so did my hat, my hair, leaves on the trees around us, and even the crooks of our elbows!
And then it started to get very dark. It was weird at first. Kind of orange and red-tinted. And then it got darker, and darker, and darker! And then the golf course lights came on and then we got that perfect ring up there. We only got 1 minute and 26 seconds of totality so I told myself I had one chance to take a picture with my crazy camera set up. I wanted to make sure I spent some time just experiencing the eclipse.
So as we got closer to the ring phase, I turned on the GoPro and the Zoom recorder so they could happily record the event while we forgot they were recording us. Then I set up my camera on the tripod and aimed it sort of in the direction of the sun (can’t look through the lens at the non fully eclipsed sun). And then as soon as we hit the ring, I sprang into action: pointed camera at sun, focused lens (definitely no autofocus on this lens), snapped photo, and hoped that the exposure time was right. It looked awesome! I snapped a few more with different exposure settings even though I wasn’t supposed to and then I stopped and watched the rest of totality with Cobalt and my sister. We may have taken some selfies…
So cool! Of course there are a million other things I wish I had done and looked at or noticed. A minute is so short and even though I told myself I only got one try with the camera, I was thinking about photography a little more than I wanted to be, especially when I was trying to just be in that one moment.
For the record, the GoPro did a pretty good job of capturing the rapidly darkening sky all around us and the Zoom audio recorder recorded us (and all the other people at the golf course) freaking out. I think the big lesson here is that we’ll have to go see another total solar eclipse sometime. Maybe next time it will be longer. And maybe I’ll leave the fancy lenses at home. We’ll see…
I hope you had fun with whatever eclipse viewing you did too! We certainly did. 5 stars, would watch a total solar eclipse again. :)
PS: Points if you knew where my title came from. I had the line from “You’re so vain” stuck in my head the whole time…
I’ve been doing a lot of networking coffees/informational interviews with people around the University/across the US. It’s been pretty epic fitting all these events in with actually working in the lab; it means I am running around like a crazy person even more than normal. Plus I start teaching my section of the class I am co-teaching next week (how is it March already?!?!). I might explode!
Anyway, I want to talk about these coffees/interviews because I’ve noticed a striking pattern. I think that within the first minute, I can tell whether a particular interview will be useful. Then I either leave feeling inspired and excited about my potential future and career or I leave feeling miserable and like I totally missed the boat somewhere along the way. I’ve been going over my various interviews recently trying to figure out what’s happening in each scenario so that I can share them with you! Let’s break it down:
make me laugh.
make me feel comfortable “in my skin.”
involve my coffee-mate listening to me and acknowledging that what I want to do is important.
include a list of potential contacts for follow up interviews, potential fellowships to apply for, potential new directions to go in, etc.
include a list of ideas for making me more a “competitive” applicant.
make me feel like I should have already figured out my life.
make me feel like I fail at communication and basic human interactions.
involve my coffee-mate not really listening to what I am trying to say and pushing their own agenda on me.
involve my coffee-mate telling me that everything that I want to do is competitive and assuming that I am not a hard worker and do not have the skills to succeed in the field of interest.
include a list of potential contacts for follow up interviews, potential fellowships to apply for, potential new directions to go in.
include a list of ideas for making me more a “competitive” applicant.
I think that the bad interviews are bad because I have a different personality from the person I am chatting with, not because I am not interested in learning more about his or her job. I guess I never thought about how completely jarring it would be to try to get career advice from someone who thinks differently than me. I am tempted to chalk them up as good practice but not too important but I feel a bit uneasy completely writing them off. I’m sure there’s good information in there (see the bottom two bullets of both categories) but I leave them feeling so down about myself that it’s hard to find it. Ideas for how to make the most of these situations? Is there a way I can take charge of these situations and refocus them in a way that’s actually useful for me? Should I even try? Anyone want to share their own job-hunting stories?
I’ll leave you with this picture of tasty tacos from last weekend when Cobalt and I went to Torchy’s tacos for the first time with our friends J and K. Delish.
Now I want tacos…. I should start setting up networking taco interviews………
Yay science posts are back! Today we are (finally) going to start that daunting question about how to read about science by talking a little about experimental design and what to look for when trying to read about a science topic in the news. There’s a lot going on here so take your time and leave me a comment if something didn’t make sense or you want to know more about something.
Let’s start at the beginning. All science starts with a question, such as “Why are cats afraid of cucumbers?” Then, in order to start answering the question, the scientists have to come up with a hypothesis – their educated guess for an answer. For example, “Cats are afraid of cucumbers because they are green.”
Now comes the tricky part. Scientists have to design an experiment that directly tests their hypothesis. This part is tricky because there are always a ton of potential answers and scientists need to figure out how control their experiment so that solely it tests their hypothesis and doesn’t bring any other factors into the mix. For example, if we wanted to test whether cats hate green, we’d want to control our experiment so we wouldn’t accidentally be testing the cats’ response to different shapes or smells.
Designing a good experiment is really complicated. It’s made even worse by the fact that the very systems that some scientists study are filled with differences. For example, all humans share more than 99% of the same DNA but think about how unique we all are (even identical twins who have exactly the same DNA). The term we use for this phenomenon is called “heterogeneous” and scientists are finding to this day that organisms with the exact same DNA can act completely differently from each other. So with all of this crazy heterogeneity in mind, another way scientists can be cautious about designing experiments that solely test their hypothesis is to replicate the experiment a lot or test multiple subjects (cats, people, bacteria, etc).
Replicating an experiment is really important. For example, if I put a cucumber behind my cat and she doesn’t freak out, can I really conclude that all cats are not afraid of cucumbers? Let’s add some replicates in there! I could put a cucumber behind my cat 10 days in a row and then determine if she continues to stay nonplussed by the cucumber. I could also try putting a cucumber behind my cat at different times of the day to determine if it depends on the time of day. Or I could put cucumbers behind a variety of cats to determine if my cat is just weird and likes cucumbers. All of these ideas would add replicates to my experiment and help me identify if my results are just a weird fluke associated with some other factor that I don’t care about or if they are directly related to my hypothesis.
Good science experiments have established controls and include large numbers of replicates to eliminate “weird flukes.” All of these factors should be listed in the original scientific paper describing the study but these papers are often incredibly dense and hard to follow (even for fellow scientists). However, a good science report or article written for the general public should also list these qualifications. So to test the quality of a good source, I like to see what an article says about controls and replicates.
Here is a fake article that I just made up:
Scientists determine that too much sleep causes cancer.
Scientists at Questionable Science University have completed a study about sleep and cancer. They interviewed two different people who have lung cancer and found that they sleep 7 hours every night. As these data clearly show a link between too much sleep and cancer, people should sleep no more than 6 hours a night to prevent cancer.
Yikes! Does this mean we should stop trying to get a solid 7-8 hours a night?
Well, it looks like these scientists talked to two people who already have cancer. I want to know more information about the people who were interviewed for this study. Did the scientists take care to control for other variables like age, race, or gender? What else do these people have in common (i.e. do they smoke? Do they exercise? What type of food do they eat? Are they the same age?). All of these questions could have affected their results in a way that disconnects sleep from cancer. Furthermore, they didn’t talk to anyone who doesn’t have cancer (this is called a negative control and is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT). Plus they only asked two people! That’s like me saying cats aren’t afraid of cucumbers because my cat isn’t! It doesn’t look like they have any controls or replicate the experiment so maybe this isn’t a great source after all. Yay! Time to get more sleep! -_-
I like to think of science as “a quest for the truth.” Good experimental design is hard but it’s worth it because it helps scientists get closer to finding out the truth! It’s really important to make sure your sources report on good science so that you can learn about the truth! I tried to give you some tools that let you sift through some scientific topics you are interested in so let me know if they help! Go practice the game and then report your findings back to me! :D
Now it’s your turn: tell me about the science you are the most interested in learning about. Or tell me about something completely unscience related. That was a lot of science for one day…
Hey everyone! I thought I would spend today’s post talking about how I got into science.
So it all started when my parents got PhDs (before I was born). There hasn’t been a time in my life when I didn’t know about the option of getting a PhD. Not that that’s what I wanted to do necessarily. Let’s see – I wanted to be a paleontologist or a veterinarian or a marine biologist or a neuroscientist orrrrrr a biochemist? My parents attempted to encourage me to think about engineering so we built a bunch of radios together. However, I was really into cats, dolphins, whales, and other creatures. Hilariously, my 8th grade science fair project nicely merged engineering and animals. My dad and I built an “apparatus” that fed my cats if they pressed on a dispenser with their paws. My project was to train my cats to use the “apparatus” with different paws to see if they would selectively continue to use whichever paw I trained them with to eat. However, mostly my results showed that my cats were scared of the “apparatus”…. except when there was food available.
Luckily for me, there was a ton of stuff available for me, a budding young scientist, to do to explore various aspects of science. I participated in Expanding Your Horizons, which was like a mini day of college where I signed up for various science workshops. All I remember now are two different workshops: one in which I learned about math (we did something cool with geometry and shapes) and another where I learned how to give “vaccinations” to oranges. This program is all over the country. Find a location near you for your middle school or high school girl!
Another fun activity I did was I took a marine biology class at the local university one summer. This class was a week long and we did all sorts of fun activities – like going out on a boat and getting sea sick testing various properties of ocean water, studying crabs, and dissecting *gasp* sharks. (Note: this was before I found out how much I loved sharks, though I still wasn’t super excited to participate. Also, our shark was pregnant! Did you know that some sharks give birth to live babies?! Craziness… sharks are so cool!). Anyyyyyyway – most universities have programs like this for high school students. I taught at one last summer and my students got to learn all sorts of biology that I didn’t get to learn until I was halfway through college! Super awesome (fair warning – the one I taught seemed really expensive so check out the prices before you get your kiddos all excited…. :-/)!
Some students might be interested to see if they like doing research in labs. I didn’t get to experience research until I was in college. For my first research project, I did a summer internship in Fort Collins, CO where I studied how a nasty virus called HTLV-1 takes over our cells. It was SO COOL. That was over 10 years ago and yet I can still tell you all about it.
College students – this is the best part – you can get paid to do research! My first research experience was through a “Research Education for Undergraduates” program and it pays you a stipend to play in the lab! Also, at CU, we have the SMART program that I’ve worked for for the past 7 years. I like it even better than REU programs but it’s the same deal – think you might want to try research? Get paid to do it! Plus in the SMART program, you get to present your findings at a national conference (all expenses paid)! Besides summer research, most universities offer a chance for undergraduate students to work in a lab throughout the school year. Step 1: Find a professor you like. Step 2: Talk to him/her and mention that you would be interested in working in a lab. Depending on the professor/school/your schedule/etc, working in the lab could mean anything from making solutions to having your own independent research project so make sure you chat with the professor about his or her expectations for your experience. Also, if you have your own independent research project, chances are that you can apply for a grant through the school and get paid to do research during the school year! Awesome!
A note – high school students, don’t want to wait till you go to college to check out research? See if there is a professor in your area who wouldn’t mind having a high school student shadowing in the lab. We even have a program at CU for high school students to work full time in a lab (disclaimer: also super expensive)! However, you probably won’t get paid for this type of opportunity. Booo…
Since I didn’t do research until I was in college, I spent my summers and Saturdays at the best job ever – working at a vet clinic. I started out volunteering there the summer after my freshman year of high school and then they offered me a job starting that fall! My job started out with me working in the kennel mostly – walking dogs, feeding cats, etc – but then as I was there longer, I got more responsibilities. I learned how to hold animals for procedures, make up prescriptions, help with surgeries, and make surgery packs (which is where you clean all the tools and organize them appropriately for the most common surgeries). Making surgery packs is to this day one of my favorite work chores. There was something so delightful in the cleaning of the tools, the precise arrangement of everything for each pack into this neat square of fabric, the wrapping of the fabric around the pack, the sticking of “magical” autoclave tape (it turned black when the pack was sterilized) to close the pack, and then finally, the placement of the completed packs in the autoclave (=big scary machine that sterilizes things with heat and pressure) to be sterilized. I loved my job. I had so many fun stories about crazy clients and crazy animals. I had my favorite animals who boarded with us a lot (remind me to tell you about them sometime). It was an AMAZING job. I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they like science/might want to be a vet some day.
So what happened to get me where I am today? Well after I graduated from college, I was still fairly undecided between vet school and grad school so I decided to see where life took me. It took me to New Mexico where I was in the PREP program (which was like a mini version of graduate school) for a year (also I met Cobalt). I worked in a lab full time (and had two independent projects). I also took some fun math and physics classes because I am a nerd and they were cool (also my advisor made me take the chemistry class he was teaching). This program paid me a nice salary and prepped me for graduate school. I really enjoyed working in my lab in the PREP program and decided that grad school sounded really fun (if this was a mini version of grad school, the real thing had to be way cooler). Plus, I really wanted my PhD (see my previous post for more info about that). So I went to grad school.
Note: I just want to remind you that my tuition was paid for for the PREP program and grad school. Plus, I got paid to work in the lab and all through grad school. This is the only advanced degree program that does not require you to be filthy rich or to take out tons of money worth of loans.
Grad school was pretty cool. I traveled all over the US to present my research at conferences and I got to go to France to learn about data analysis. Plus, I learned a LOT about microscopes. But it was also really hard. REALLY REALLY hard. And at the end of it, I realized that maybe I don’t want to do research anymore. As cool as it is being the expert of some crazy problem, and as much as I love sitting in the dark watching cells crawl around on a microscope, I think I need to be out of the lab and in the world with you guys!
So what’s next on the list? Not sure but I hope whoever hires me next is ready for this surgery pack-making, microscope- and camera-loving, stuffed shark- and kitty-cuddling doctor! :)
Now it’s your turn – what’s going on in your life career-wise? Did you have any crazy unexpected turns? What do you want to be when you grow up? Don’t you wish there was a class called “Hello, now that you are (insert age here) and have figured yourself out a little, take this class to figure out your next step”? I would take it!
This concludes our science posts for the month of January but stay tuned! More science is coming you way next month! We still need to talk about how to read about science and how to figure out who to “trust” with your science news!
Fact – not all scientists are antisocial nerds who only care about science.
Some scientists might only care about science but most have a lot of other things they are excited about. Scientists, like all other humans, have the capacity to be well rounded individuals. We seem to want to forget this idea right now and I don’t know why.
Einstein for example – what do you think of when I mention his name? Brilliant guy. Random equations like E=mc2. Do you know he was also an avid patron of the arts and very actively involved in the civil rights movement here in the US? Yay for well-rounded scientists!
I worry about this behavioral shift because it encourages the exclusivity of science. As humans, we all strongly feel the need to belong. If we don’t feel accepted in a situation, we are less likely to pursue it. In fact, it’s been shown that women and underrepresented minorities often quit studying science, math, and engineering because they worry that they don’t belong or are unwelcome in those fields. It’s really important to me that you feel like you do belong in this conversation about science that we are having so let’s take a moment and establish a sense of belonging by talking about something else that I believe all humans share – passions.
This is how it’s going to work.
Scientists – Why do you do your science? Is it your one and only passion or do you have others? Think about this next time you are talking to nonscientists and start by explaining to them what it is about science that you just love instead of just jumping straight into the meat of your research and why they should care about it. Also make sure you mention all that other stuff you love doing! I know a scientist who traveled to Nepal to help rebuild houses, scientists who volunteer at a local horse rescue, scientists who volunteer with their churches, and scientists who mentor underrepresented undergraduates/high school students to give them the skills they need to succeed in science/life.
Nonscientists – what are you passionate about? Next time you confront a scientist, ask them about their passions and then see if you can find some common ground. Maybe you love photography and the scientist loves microscopy. Microscopes are just fancy cameras for tiny things! Hurrah! Now you have something in common! Discuss!
Okay – my turn:
I am passionate about science because I think it is beautiful. It is so crazy to me that a bunch of random molecules can come together to form cells, which then work together to make humans! It’s even crazier to me that tiny single cells like bacteria can be so evil and trick our complicated bodies to do their bidding. I think that is fascinating.
I am also passionate about other things – I am really passionate about giving people the opportunity to be excited about science (or whatever their passions are), regardless of their race, gender, immigration status, or income. I also love photography and all animals, especially sharks and whales! Plus I am really obsessed with markers right now and I am trying to get all artsy and learn how to color/draw better. I love comics and I am super jealous at the drawing abilities of those artists. Finally I also really love food and trying out new crazy recipes.
Enough about me – let’s hear from you. Please share in the comments section! And feel free to ask questions about any of my passions too.
In case you are interested in pursuing any of the things I mentioned up there further:
Einstein – you can just Google him and look at his Wikipedia page but there’s also a really interesting book called Einstein on Race and Racism that goes way more into detail about the non-scientist part of Einstein’s life.
Don’t turn around to see who I am talking to because I am talking to you! Yes you!
It doesn’t matter to me how much science you know, if you won the science fair or if you hated science and avoided it like the plague. Mainly the point is that I want to have a conversation with you.
I was thinking about the way we discuss science with each other nowadays and I think one problem is that we are not opening ourselves up for a conversation. Everyone is guarded. Scientists are on edge because they are unsure that nonscientists will understand the complexities of scientific topics and why they are important. Nonscientists are on edge because they feel judged by the scientists, especially when scientists take to lecturing because it is probably how they learned science. I am pretty sure no one really likes lectures, especially outside of the scope of academia. I certainly don’t.
Strange things happen when we feel uncomfortable with each other. It’s really hard to communicate when we feel guarded and unsafe. I think one strategy that we (scientists, nonscientists, etc) use when talking to each other about science and popular scientific topics is asseveration (isn’t that a cool word?) – that is boldly stating “facts” such as “People who don’t understand science are not smart.” Or “Scientists are wasting all our money doing nothing for us.” The great thing about this strategy is that it feels like communication – you have told someone your opinion about a topic so yes! Check that off the list. The bad thing about this strategy is that it really gives the people you are talking to no way to respond unless they completely agree with you. Anyone who disagrees with you is completely caught off guard and has a huge energy barrier to figure out how to tell you they disagree. So… not so great for talking about science. Everyone leaves feeling frustrated.
So what do we do about this problem?
I think we need to have conversations about science. We need to start sitting down in coffee shops and bars and really getting to know each other. Conversations allow us to be curious about each other’s thoughts and beliefs as well as be authentic by sharing our own. In this way, we can have a dialog about scientific topics without insulting each other. Hopefully this method allows us to all come closer to an understanding of what science means and what is currently happening in the scientific world.
So let’s have a conversation! First, here’s me being curious:
What do you want to talk about? What scientific topics are you interested in/afraid of/curious about/etc? We can even talk about other topics such as science communication or what do scientists do?
Second, here’s me being authentic:
I am kind of scared about doing this series of posts. What if no one wants to talk to me about science? What if I can’t explain the main points of science to you? What if I just end up confusing us both? I am also kind of excited to see what we end up talking about!
Finally – I am talking on a panel about the difference between tolerance and acceptance on a college campus TOMORROW at CU’s UMC during the Diversity and Inclusion Summit. If you live in Boulder, you should stop by so we can talk about this topic some more! :D
Hey all! We’re still in the backlog of what happened to Potassium for the past few months so I today we are talking about the few sewing projects I’ve managed to complete while being completely overwhelmed in school. Yay!
First up we have the rice whale. I got the idea for this guy back during winter break when I spent pretty much the entire time at my sis in law’s house curled up with a rice frog made from Harry Potter fabric. It was awesome. I just popped him in the microwave for a minute and voila! Warmthhhhhhh… So I decided to make myself a rice creature of sorts… I went shopping with my mom for the fabric when we were visiting my family for new years. Then I went back to lab and got swamped and didn’t think about rice creatures for a while. Fast forward to April, my sis in law found me a pattern for what could definitely become a rice whale and my excitement was reignited! The pattern was in Russian so I kind of just guestimated about sizing and such and I made one total fail rice whale and one okay but not amazing rice whale before the one pictured above but yay! Rice whale complete! And I think I’ve got the pattern mostly figured out now too which is awesome. I wish grad school would stop trying to drown me so I could make more for family and friends….
Second up we have the shark hoodie. So I originally bought this hoodie to be part of a Halloween bat costume last year. For those of you who don’t know, I have a similar hoodie (except it’s blue) that got turned into a super awesome raptor costume for my first year of grad school. It’s still all raptor-y and I love wearing it. Last year, as a grumpy 6th year, I just pinned wings to my bat hoodie and then after Halloween was over, it got converted back into a normal black hoodie. However, when Cobalt and I were romping around NYC last month, I noticed that one of the pockets was starting to detach from the hoodie. Thus the shark idea was born. I should fix the pocket, yes, but how much more awesome would it be if I embroidered a shark over the pocket instead of just using normal black thread to fix the problem?! Wahahaha… I am proud to say that I used three different stitches here for the shark – chain stitch for his gills, the split stitch for his outline, and the satin stitch for his eyes. I found sewing this shark amazingly relaxing and healing after all the craziness in lab. AND now my hoodie looks way more awesome! :)
Now I need more art projects. Ideas? I found some crochet patterns for tiny sushi… Might be fun…. ;)
Anyway, I apologize for never writing in here and being really bad about posting pictures that people are actually excited about (like from graduation or weddings I’ve recently attended). I have been saying that it’s because I am too busy and that is definitely true (I now have an army of undergrads – okay… 2 undergrads – to train in addition to doing all of my stuff) but I think that it’s partly that I’ve been kind of depressed lately. I get the feeling that my pictures aren’t going to be good anyway so why do I even try? And then of course I take lame pictures and I get mad at myself and go hide in the corner and am all emo instead. Also, lab work is actually starting to feel like it is destroying my soul. I am kind of having a life crisis about it – here I have spent years of my life training to be a scientist and what do I have to show for myself? Rage?! I hate it so much right now! It breaks my heart to think about how much time and effort I have spent working on something that makes me frustrated and infuriated and stressed out, etc. Here I am so close to finishing this degree I have wanted all my life and instead of feeling relieved and excited about the future, all I can see is how much work I have left to do and how much I just don’t care anymore. :-/
Whoa… that got deep for a minute. Anyway, I thought I owed you guys the truth so there it is. Now it’s your turn – ideas for new projects? Potassium needs some distractions from science, which is eating her soul. Also, if you know this feeling I am talking about, care to share some insight?