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Academic study of Depression/Anxiety

Imagine, if you can, feeling yourself descend into madness.

You love (ok, maybe not love right this minute, I am in grad school) your job. You are passionate about your field of study. You wanted this.  You want this.

And every damn morning you have to convince yourself to get out of bed. You have to convince yourself that slitting your wrists is actually NOT what you want to do.  That, yes, it would get you out of a few days of work…. but it would potentially ruin the rest of your life. Every day this inner struggle to get up and go do the thing you love.

Now imagine being paranoid to tell anyone about it.  Because they will want to commit you.  They may want you to stop work.  They may want to take actions that would take away the things you love.  You know that the angel can beat the demons…. but they are not confident enough in you.  Besides… you know exactly how to slit your wrists so as to cause damage, but not death. You know the enemy…. you just can’t defeat him.

You get to work and can barely do anything for fear of screwing something else up.  But inaction is just as bad as mistakes. So you can’t win.  You have to continually subject yourself to a situation where the losses will far outnumber the wins… and your brain is already skewed to make any loss greater than a win anyways.  Seriously, just getting to work is a triumph.  But it is not enough.  You *know* this. But you can’t seem to get your brain to be convinced of it.

Every morning you wake up to a partner who loves and cherishes you.  It is the amazing love of someone who understands.  Someone who will not judge.  Plus the undying love of a pet who thinks the sun rises and sets with you.  Yet you feel alone and isolated.  You feel adrift, disconnected. You know you are loved yet you yearn for…what?

It is a cloud that rolls in over your brain.  You feel as if you are working through a fog, or running in sand. You know you need to act… but deep down you just don’t care. What is the point? Sure, you may have a good day tomorrow or the day after.  And then what?

The light at the end of the tunnel is not a fixed point, it moves, retreats, advances.  It teases you, encourages you, and then flits away like a firefly.

And then you begin to wonder….why is a raven like a writing desk?

And you yearn for tea….

You watch yourself go through this, unable to stop it. Knowing and not knowing, helping and unable to help. Is it better to know you are mad? Maybe.  But it is not easy to embrace the madness when you know.

The only thing knowledge may do is stop you from slamming your head around when that is all you want to do. The knowledge contains but never controls the monster in your head. It would be easier to embrace the monster, to let it rule, than to have to keep constant vigil.

So who is really more sane:  The individual who embraces the insanity?  Or the one who hides it?

The never ending battle takes its’ toll on the field. The field becomes no longer green and lush.  No longer able to support life. The tears and craters in the earth are an assault on something that does not chose sides, only favors. The fog rolls in, obscuring the damage, but it is still there.

If only there were a true way to tame the beast.

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Research Snubbed, A story about the bitches and hoes of science

Most people like to assume that scientists take ethics very seriously. That, while human, we are above reproach when it comes to citing sources, respecting the integrity of our peers, and not stealing ideas or work from our fellows.

Really it is occasionally just like high school. Some people do the least they need to get buy, they will “borrow” other people’s ideas/notes, and really it is all about who publishes it first.

Unfortunatly, this is a grey area of ethics.  While steal is strickly prohibited, the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused.  As long as you did not use any other their work or contributions in a paper you can, technically, leave them out. Leaving an indivudual “research snubbed”.

Sure, you made contributions to the over all work, but it wasn’t ____ enough to merit even an acknowledgement at the end of the paper. “Thanks to the person who schelpped with  us through the crap to write this brilliance!” Even that would have been appreciated.  I am just saying.  It was not a small amount of work I did.  And while not extremely costly (luckily), there was the small matter of supplies and my time that was donated to help further your research.  For which all I ask is my name on the paper. Somewhere.  I’m not delusional, I did not make a huge contribution, nor did I write the paper. I did help though.  I have the notebook data to prove it.

These individuals, these are the bitches and hoes of science high school. These are the reasons some professors refuse to collaborate.  They are why some professors require contractual agreements between two PIs before any collaboration occurs. They are why smart students, grad or undergrad, look like schmucks (because, despite *doing* all the work, they get no credit).

Seriously people.  How much effort does it take to tack on one or two or three more names? Do additional authors make you look less cool? (PS- No, we already know you did not do the work by yourself) Does it hurt your lab in any way to show additional individuals contributed to a paper?

To a PI, it is a few extra inches on a CV that is so long very few people seriously read it.  To a student those inches are crucial, and authorships are a serious deal. I, personally, would rather put extra people on as author of a paper than leave someone off and risk seriously angering someone. You never know who will be helpful in the future.

You never know what student, soon to become peer, will harbor this resentment for an entire career.

Come to think of it… this is likely why we have so many angry reviewers, cause of these bitches and hoes.


A Future Angry Reviewer


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When mice just are not enough

If you ever get time, or want to waste time in an “educational” manner, wander around the Cracked website.  Amazing, trivial pursuit, comedic stories about celebrities all the way to science.

With that I give you the article “6 Most Badass Self-Inflicted Medical Experiments

While people toil away in labs, scribbling furiously in lab notebooks, losing sleep, and losing sanity these men show what happen when you finally hit the wall. Or, really, when you ignore every protocol and committee in place regarding human subjects. But let’s face it, sometime you have to stick it to the man and drink whatever is in that flask.

Though, really, you should make sure you are really ready to lay it on the line.  I mean Max Josef von Pettenkofer drank cholera that he cultured from a patient’s stool.  A dead patient’s stool.  This cholera that he cultured, and then drank down like afternoon tea, had just killed someone.  And he did it to prove that the cholera bacteria was NOT, as Robert Koch had shown, the only factor in the illness. The man did it to show up Koch, the Nobel winner and inventor of Koch postulates. This was not just science- this was a personal vendetta. Regarding Pettenkofer’s ill-advised cholera tonic the Journal of Nutrition says this “During his later years, Pettenkofer was best known for his many studies of the epidemiology of cholera and typhoid. Unfortunately, he reached the incorrect conclusion that the microorganism for cholera is not virulent until it has incubated in dirt or soil under special conditions.

Not only did Pettenkofer get down with the sickness, his students took a sip of the kool-aid too! No offense, I think my boss is smart, but I cannot say I would follow him into battle like that.  Not without some additional medical staff on stand by.

Think that is the worst?  Not by far.  Pettenkofer is number 6 on the list.  John Hunter, an English physician in the 1700’s, attempted to show that gonorrhea and syphilis were the same disease in different stages.  He based this on the observation that the two diseases did not seem to co-exist in patients.  Granted, a person could get gonorrhea, and later get syphilis, but not at the same time.  But finding a clean subject was a tough cookie.  So Hunter, being ever the enterprising man of science, injected his own penis with gonorrhea obtained from another person.

Unlucky for Dr. Hunter, the patient also had syphilis.  So he ended up accidentally proving his hypothesis.  Which was later disproven. Because science actually works.

This still leaves you with crotch rot and syphilis induced madness. Which is defiantly worse than a light case of cholera.

Dr. Hunter is STILL not the winner of men who use themselves as test subjects.  No.  That distinctive honor of most Badass scientist goes to J.B.S. Haldane.  First off, lets preface this by saying this: The man was Scottish.  And, lets face it, the scots are not the most balanced in the bunch.  So crazy and nuts was this man that Aldus Huxley made him or his ideas the antagonists in two of his books.  It is reported that in one experiment he “he drank quantities of hydrochloric acid to observe its effects on muscle action; another time he exercised to exhaustion while measuring carbon dioxide pressures in his lungs.”  Whoo hoo! Lets drink acid and see what happens! He experimented himself in to a sever spinal cord injury, which he did not seek treatment for, and just walked off.

Of course he may have learned this from dad, Haldane Sr.,  a Scottish physiologist who investigated the toxic effects of various poison gases. On himself. And on Junior.  Not graduate students, but his own son. Again, the scots are a crazy bunch.  But at least none of these men infected themselves by drinking poo tea or sticking their own penis. So, really, who is the winner here?

I highly recommend the Cracked articles.  They are funny and include links to external sources.  Not always the most academic sources, but still.  It is a great way to kill those ten minute incubation periods!



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Crone, Mother, and Virgin- Apparently there are only three women in science

Stereotypes are bad.  This is what we have been taught since grade school.

However, stereotypes are also accurate, hence why they have stuck around for so long.

In sticking with the rules of three in graduate studies: 3 people on your committee, 3 replications, 3 data points for a line, 3 decades of poverty, 3 heart attacks before graduation… I could go on… apparently there are only 3 types of women in science. I will explain them here.

The virgin- also known as the doormat.  These are usually the young, naive, non-tenured women with stars in their eyes.  They will do almost anything for anybody. They will take over planning the weekly seminars, begging anyone and everyone to participate, and even negotiating with you about when to give yours. These women will even do your research for you if you just step back and look sad enough.  They are great because they are always “understanding” about things.  Unfortunately, you never really learn anything because they are so eager to see you succeed that they do rather than teach.  And, because they lack experience, usually they are pretty lame teachers.  Don’t get me wrong- I love tests where the teacher tells you exactly what they are going to ask and what they expect as answers.  But you don’t really learn anything, do you?  No.  You don’t.  Men like the virgin because they can pawn the dirty work off on her.  Though she will never rise above professor/researcher position, assuming she is tenure track at all.  She will always be in the background, doing as she is told or what she perceives will maybe gain her respect, maybe, possibly?  But lets be real girls- men may like the doormat but all it is there for is to wipe your feet on.

The mother- known as the mother.  This is the departmental mommy.  She makes great food, coddles you when you need it, is strict with you when necessary, but you will always be her baby.  Generally she won’t do everything for you, but some sad eyes and you can get a little out of her.  She is a fair teacher, but she seems to almost want to follow you home and tuck you in at night. A 5 minute conversation about work turns into a 30 minute conversation about work and family. And it is not just you- it is everyone.  Everyone sees her as a maternal substitute.  Which is great, I love my adoptive mothers.  I usually like them more outside of work though.  It took me years to train my mother to not call when I may be at work, and I do not need substitute mother at work. Usually these women are older, and childless (likely having passed up children for long work hours, or hey- maybe she just never met the right guy, or possibly its empty nest syndrome).  The men love it because, well, men love their mommas.  So it is likely that she will be in some type of administrative position.  She can better run her household and look out after her babies as an administrator!  There is nothing wrong with the mother, but she does not want to see any of her children upset at her so she will likely not always be the best person for conflict resolution.  Not a bad position, but do you really want to be everyone’s mother?

Finally, the crone- known as the bitch. You know her.  The balls to the wall, scarey, in your face, blunt woman who tells you like it is and will tell you and everyone else where to go.  These women rise to power fast when they want, or just sit secure in their tenure position.  They get what they want, and it is ill-advised for anyone male or female to get in their way.  If you are on good terms with them it is great.  They make awesome human shields.  However, if you take one wrong step they can make your life a veritable Dante’s inferno, and will send you through every level before you are finished.  I would recommend caution when proceeding with this woman.  Keep her close enough for potential job recommendations, and far enough away that she can’t adversely effect your graduation.  If all you want is to make it up the administrative ladder, then this is your woman.  However, remember that fear is not respect and the minute someone has a chance to screw you they will.  And the rest of the people will likely be singing “Ding-dong the bitch is dead”.  You have to always be one step ahead, because eventually a new bitch will come along, or Beaudros best golfin buddy from the club for those schools that favor extreme nepotism,  and you will be turned out and not missed.  It’s good while it lasts, and if you can climb the ladder high enough (or collect enough blackmail information) you can always jump institutions and keep your position.  But do you really want to have to act like some female hyena to keep your day job?

(Of course, a word of warning, it is possible to overshoot the bitch angle and just end up crazy bitch.  This will likely ensure a short career at your current location and the only way I have seen it counteracted is to become the doormat.)

So, ladies, are the really only one of three?  Or do women adapt to what they think the best career move is?  In my current employment I can only think of one female faculty member who would not fit into one of the three categories.  She seems to successfully navigate the three in any given situation. One out of many who does not intentionally or unintentionally fit the three archetypes of women in research.

So while women are allowed in the workforce, they are apparently only allowed to act a certian way. You must act like a lady, and must fit neatly into one of the three archetypes.  If you don’t…well then…how will men know what to do with you?  How will they judge you?

Remember, the only way to not be stereotyped is to not be stereotypical.

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Do feed the graduate students

Some people may not know, or may not fully realize, that graduate students are all very emotionally and psychologically fragile.  So, a few tips to keep your graduate student on the correct side of the sanity line:


1) For the love of GOD stop playing that elevator music.  I get that you like that subtle, light background music when you are working.  But if you leave your desk turn that shit off.  Better yet- get headphones!

That barely there elevator music does not sooth the savage beast, it makes the beast question if it really did just hear violins in the background playing ominious music.  That makes the beast question its sanity.  And the beast has a tenuious hold on its sanity as it is, and the feeling of sanity slipping away to some concerto is not a good way to go silently into that good night.  Get head phones.  Please…please….dear God….please.

2) Cease and desist all incessant chattering.  I am sorry that you either a) can’t stand the sound of silence or b) love the sound of your own voice.  But sometimes I need silence to think.  Pure, unadulterated silence.  Sweet, sweet uninterrupted silence.  You chattering like a chimpmunk across the lab (and the never ending elevator music) do not aid in my thinking process. So please, could you just hush for awhile?  Not saying you have to be quiet all the time, but when the lunch hour is the only time I get to think without you yammering in the background then you talk too much!

3) Do your job right!  I know.  Science is hard. And as an undergraduate dishwasher your life is terribly dull.  But if you wash all the ink off the pippetts, and I can’t read the numbers, that makes my job even harder.  And my job is hard enough.  Or if you don’t stay ontop of inventory and you don’t realize that we are out of something we needed two weeks ago, again my job becomes harder.  I realize the job of a gopher is not glamerous, and will not win you a Nobel anytime soon.  But when I order something, and ask you to go get it, and you don’t…again.  These things make my job harder.

I know.  Jobs are hard.  And doing them right is even harder! But unless you want me lashing out unfairly and losing my sanity at you, it would be advised you try.  Try HARD.  that or bring chocolate.

4) Stop incessantly calling at lunch time!!! People are at lunch! No one is here, except me, seeking quiet from the incessant yammerings! And I am not actually just a secretary!  My job is NOT to answer phones.  And if I tell you so and so is not here, they will likely not be here in 5 minutes! Really? People eat lunch! I understand if it is 2pm,but from noon-1 please, stop calling.  I need the quiet!

5) Always feed the graduate student.  Candy, fresh fruits and veggies, something we don’t have to make.  Anything really.  Nothing soothes the savage beast like a cookie. And turning off that damn NPR.  And you sushing.  And you doing your job.

But a cookie or two will makes up for a good bit.

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Why is everything a euphamism for sex?

“What was the secret that the serpent told Eve? That she could eat a certain fruit? Pah. That was a euphemism. The fruit was carnal knowledge, and everybody from Thomas Aquinas to Milton knew it. How did they know it? Nowhere in Genesis is there even the merest hint of the equation: Forbidden fruit equals sin equals sex. We know it to be true because there can only be one thing so central to mankind. Sex.”

–Matt Ridley, The Red Queen

Now originally I picked up with book with the interest of learning more about The Red Queen’s Hypothesis, which basically says that rather than everything becoming better through evolution, we are actually constantly evolving in order to keep up with everything else that is evolving, which essentially leave us all the same. It is rather intriguing and has been studied to a limited extent with viruses and bacteria (It was published in Nature.  If you don’t have access, sorry, but here is the reference: Paterson S, Vogwill T, Buckling A, et al. Antagonistic coevolution accelerates molecular evolution. Nature. 2010:4-8. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20182425).

However, only a few pages into the book and all the sudden the Fruit of the Tree was code word for sex?  I do not remember covering this in Sunday School.  And I would argue that in a Godless existence, then yes, there would be only one thing so central to mankind.  However, for those individuals who have faith, regardless of denomination, I think there are other central things.

And even then, where in the Bible is sex demonized?  It is given a context wherein there is absolutely nothing wrong with sex.  Even OUTSIDE the context relationship sex is not demonized so much as the other issues that result in sex out of a proper context.

Where does it say that Adam and Eve were not ever going to have sex?  Where did it say that they were never going to have sex?  How could the earth be populated by man if there was no sex?  Birds have sex, but they do it without lust, anger, envy.  Dog’s don’t wear clothes, unless people make them, because they don’t know shame and lust.  In the old testimate people are given the commission to go forth an multiply.  How can people do that without sex?  If God was so against sex why demand that two of every animal be brought onto the Ark?  Why was a family unit, NOT just Noah and his wife and their children, brought onto the Ark?  Instead his daughter’s husbands and son’s wives were also invited along.  And this is all still Old Testament.  Sex is essential for reproduction and population.  Why do people think an all knowing God would skip that fact?  Did it say somewhere in Genesis that Adam and Eve were it?  That if there were going to be any more fish in the sea, or birds on land, or animals of  the earth God would simply make them?  Because I am pretty sure sex was part off the plan all along.

And if you want to read about sex in the Bible: Song of Songs.  Now there is a  book of the Bible that is laden with sex and euphamisms of sex.  Try it one night: dim the lights, light some candles and read aloud from the Song of Songs.  If you don’t get a little randy I would be surprised.  There is a reason no one really covers that book on Sunday.  That is the private, for adults only, Bible study class (assuming the leader is brave enough to cover it).

The Bible merely points out that sex should be had in proper context.  Regardless of how you chose to define “adulterer” (I chose to say it is when you knowingly and consciously participate in a physical sexual relationship with someone other than your significant other. Hence, one nighters don’t technically fall into adulterer, as long as you are not in a relationship with someone else.) there is the fact that, as humans, sex in short term relationships leads to problems.

Let’s face it- we have weak, worthless, helpless young.  Seriously.  They are born pink, squishy, and screaming.  They need almost constant care the first year or so, they have to be carried or assisted in moving for almost the first 3 years, then we get to finally start working on fine tune coordination and language for a while.  Heck, human offspring is generally helpless until they are teenage.  And then they develop horrible acne, body odor, and attitudes and suddenly start doing stupid things.  It is amazing we have made it as far as we have.  There are tens of thousands of people who should have been eaten a long time ago!

Hench that short term relations that are centered around sex are, almost, anti evolutionary.  Look at the statistics- single parents have a harder time raising productive, contributing members of society.  Most criminals in jail (biased population, I admit) come from single parent homes.  Though if you watch Lockup, there are certainly individuals who come from wealthy-middle class, two parent homes.  But those people also, generally, have a personality disorder.  However, humans do better in two parent (or at least family unit) homes.  Everyone craves to know their mother AND their father.  And it is not just because of the random mutation we may have inherited from them.  People crave intimacy and knowledge and family.  Yes.  Sex is a part of it.  But I would venture to say Adam and Eve had sex in the garden long before the temptation of the fruit.

People tend to mock the Bible for its “backwards” thinking.  But I also point out that it was written thousands of years ago.  No pork?  Because of one little word: trichinosis.  People did not know how to properly cook pork then.  Stay away from lepers? People are stupid, and leprosy is actually a very slow moving disease.  It can take years, to even a decade, of exposure to transmit leprosy.  Because people would never have realized it until it was too late, they would have kept those family members in their home. Because it was not immediately lethal most people never would have understood what was going on until you had three generations infected in a home!  Visiting the colonies was encouraged, because limited exposure is acceptable. Hardly backwards for that time. But how else are you going to explain to a people that will have no concept of what a cell is for another few thousand years the concept of something smaller than a cell that makes your cell sick. You time travel back and tell me how that lecture goes. Watch out for flying rocks.

But I still remember nothing about not having sex in the Bible.  Lust, envy, greed, adulterous relations, sex only for pleasure, masturbation… sure.  These things are there.  But nothing about the evils of sex.

There is no denying that sex is important to man.  Personally and evolutionarily.  But it is not the center of the universe and the fruit.  I still say that the fruit is knowledge.  Let’s face it, what woman doesn’t want to know everything about everything?  Hell, that is what gossip is for! We want to be equal in knowledge.  We loath it not when people are more intellectual, but when they are just smarter. I could be smarter if I read more, or studied harder, or whatever.  We want equality, superiority, of knowledge.  We hate secretes, lies, because they effect our knowledge.  They skew not just how, but what we think about people or situations.  Children get mad because mommy knows where the cookies are hidden, and won’t tell.  Suzie is mad because Sally knows if Johnny likes her, but won’t tell.  It goes on and on.  At our core we crave knowledge.

Personally, it is so freaking hot outside right now,  I’d rather be napping naked in a garden at a perfect 82 degrees with a breeze.  Screw knowledge.

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Nature- We are all the same, so just express yourself!

“We have 99% the same DNA as monkeys!”

Regardless of you opinion of evolution, whenever anyone attempts to shock by announcing how much DNA sequence I have in common with other animals, especially mammals, I have one response: Duh? (and actually it is only the highest with the great Apes, it gets less as you go down the chain.)

I also have a magic 8 box (same concept, just in a box, from Sigma) that informs me that humans share about 50% DNA similarity with a banana. While I am pale like a banana it can be hard to imagine where that 50% comes from.

Well, my delightful children, let me tell you something- we are all made of cells! And cells all need the same things- a nucleus, organelles, actin, membrane proteins, DNA binding proteins, and the list goes on.  And let me give you the real shocker- Nature is a lazy wench, and if it ain’t broke she don’t fix it.  There is no need to redesign the actin molecule for every different cell type or species.  That would take entirely too much work (and the actin molecule is the one that is highest homology, or similarity, across the animal kingdom).  and even of the exact molecule won’t work for two different kingdom, it does not take too much to tweak that molecule to make it work favorably in another kingdom.

So, getting back to Apes.  We both have hair, similar anatomy and physiology, nails, eyes, teeth… exactly how many ways do you think there are to make teeth?  The real difference lies in the expression of these individual genes.  Is hair expressed all over, or just in certain places (and we have seen mutations of these regulations in the”wolfman” or hypertrichosis.  Or when people have vestigial tails. This is all just a delicate dance by the many things in your genome that actually have nothing to do with coding.  The term is “functional genomics”.  Which is something we have only begun to delve into with the ever growing world of siRNA and DNA methylation patterns.

Does this mean that we evolved from something that had a tail? Or that we all have the same coding potential and just get the expression tweaked?  I will leave that question to your inner self, as I’ve no interest of going on an evolutionary diatribe at the moment.

But the question is posed: Is everything a show of evolution, or is it just that, in her lazy way, Nature made a template and we are all variations of a theme?

Either way, your genetics are all statistically the same.  Life is all about expression! So express yourself!