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Book Series Suggestion

The Chicagoland Vampier series is amazing.

Grad student unwillingly turned into a vampire and forced to quit grad school.

(are there any vamps around, because I would go willingly right now!)

 

It was like being dumped all over again, but this time by something I never imagined would hurt me.  I looked up at Mallory, despair in my eyes, then pointed down at the pizza again. “Is that a pea? On pizza?”

 

Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill

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People ain’t got no raisins

Have you ever noticed that manners, even common decency, seems to have left the building?

Now, granted, those of the nerdy type are not known world wide for their people skills.  Asocial, quiet, studious, and “who? that person that sits up front and never talks?” are all sentiments associated with those of the scientific or academic-minded persuasion.  And that is fine.

But none of those traits is an excuse for some of the down right rudeness when it comes to the lab community.  In a group of peers and like minded individuals you should not be so nervous about discourse, and you should attempt to be polite and courteous to your fellow lab mates.  After all you are going to be spending the next several years with these people and all will go much better if everyone, at the very least, does not hate each other.  Preferably you all get along, but I know they let morons into grad school to.  Also, still no reason to be rude.

 

Rules to survivng the lab.

1) Alert people when things need to be ordered. When you notice that a reagent/kit/solution that other people in the lab use TELL PEOPLE! This is WHY we have the “To be ordered” board in the first place! So you can write things down, or *gasp* reorder them yourself!  If you are the only one that uses it, and you reach for it and it is not there, that is your own fault.  If several people use something and we checked it Friday and there was enough, then go to use it on Saturday and you used it all we will not be friends.  I may TP your lab bench.

2) Don’t hoard. I know it may seem like it, but I promise, we can order more stuff.  There is no need for you to stash tips, gloves, media, chemicals, or wathever else like a derranged squirrle in the fall.  Plus you hoarding means we have to reorder things more often.  Which is also why you probably need to follow rule number 1.

3) Re-stock the shelves.  I checked my contract.  I am not the lab’s restocker.  I know you are not either.  But somehow the flasks have to get from the storage room to the common area where we use stuff, and the Magic Flask Moving Fairy is on vacation in the Bahamas.  If you use the last of something RE-STOCK it.  I promise- it will work out that we all restock the shelves a few times in our time here.  It will not be just your job if we all take turns.  Also, when you go to restock something and you notice we only have a box left, SEE RULE 1!!

4) Don’t make lab meeting go on longer than it has to.  Really.  No one needs a blow by blow of everything you have done since the last meeting.  We need to know what, in general, you are doing and how it will be effecting the rest of the lab.  Are you using something dangerous?  Will you be using a high amount of a particular item that we need to make sure stays in stock (see rule 1)? When it looks like you are never here are you really somewhere else working?  This should really take 5-10 minutes.  Trust me, the Boss will ask questions.  But when you take 20-30 minutes to explain something we all want to kill you.  This is especially true when lab meeting is Friday afternoon.

5) Put things back where they go.  If it is a communally used item it has a home.  Make sure it returns to it’s home.  Not a shelf above, nor below, not to the left, nor the right, nor out in the middle of the bench.  PUT IT BACK IN ITS HOME! How many times have I spent HOURS looking for something that is not in its home?  TOO MANY! The alphabet is not that difficult.  And we have a log book in case you managed to forget where it goes.  Put things back where they go!

6) DO NOT LEAVE CHEMICAL SOAKED PAPERTOWELS ON THE BENCH WHERE SOMEONE WILL COME INTO CONTACT WITH THEM! Seriously! this likely falls under the “clean up your mess” rule, but I feel this makes a bigger impact.

Remember- this is a lab.  With toxic, dangerous chemicals.  Don’t make us want to use them on you.

I am going to go crawl into the -80 now.

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Science!- Oops…I did it again…

Most people like to think of scientists busily, adeptly, and knowledgeably moving liquid from on container to the next.  Seeking, pursuing that bit of the unknown.  Suddenly, when they have the results they will should out “Eureka!”.

Not true.  Most of the scientists I know blunder around the lab poking at things with proverbial sticks going “Well… that’s funny.” We also spend a good bit of time trying to figure out how long “several minutes” is. Really, Mr Protocol? Several minutes? Not less than 5, more than ten… just several minutes between complete success and abject failure due to ethanol contamination? I hate you. (This is actually the thinking that happens on a daily basis in the lab.  We try to save up the brilliance.)

Think about the most famous scientific milestones in history- most were an accident.  There was no intent, no seeking of potential knowledge.  Just someone putzing around in the lab who happened to notice something funny. Granted- the actually knowing what to do with it is also very, very important. But there is still more headbanging than the shouting of “Eureka”. On that I promise.

Think on the discovery of penicillin.  That dude likely walked into the lab, was looking through his plates, and his first thought was “Shit. Damn fungus.” (Cause, I know that is usually my sentiment).  After banging his head on the desk a few times he looked back at the plates praying the mold was a figment of his imagination. When, after a few proverbial or physical blows to the head, he realized that the bacteria was not growing around the mold.  Now this is where the smrts come in (that’s right children, not smarts- smrts)- rather than tossing the plate he realized that this oops could be interesting.  I could also be a huge waste of time, which is why he set his minions… I mean assistants, on it. Thus, by never giving up on a screw up (which is what fungal contamination amounts to- a screw up) Dr Flemming got to go down in history because he noticed “oh…that’s funny”.  (the actual WORK? Please, that is what minions are for.)

Another major discovery- the double helix.  Regardless of what you actually think of Watson and Crick the boys, along with a dirty, rotten, thief, won a Nobel Prize on what was, in essence, a lit review. Get real. The only one what had any data was Wilkins, via Rosalind Franklin. Rosalind was the real brains behind the double helix. Even today her X-ray images of the double helix are considered amazing. Watson and Crick used everyone around them to garner information in order to win a Nobel. Trust me, the boys made plenty of structural mistakes along the way, like forgetting the water. Rosalind should have put something in their coffee when she saw what they were doing. Apparently she is a better person than I, because I would not have taken their intrusion on my unpublished data lying down. Crick and Watson were time and time again told to stop it and get back to the work they were supposed to be doing. But the quest for the Nobel was too much to just stop. The story about the Dark Lady of DNA is a good read, and will again exemplify the idea that it is the study of the abnormal (in Franklin’s case the A structure over the B structure, which is what the boys won the Nobel for) that is often the case for scientific research. If Franklin has pursued the B structure, which is actually the abnormal, yet functional, shape of DNA she might have beaten the boys to it. But she knew that the A structure was more common, and so had to be more important. Oops on her part. She went for the common form, the boys went for “hm, this is weird”, and the rest is fact. A is for storage, B is for function (and Nobel worthy) and Z is just weird.

The normal is too difficult to study.  Sorry people.  We study he weird, the strange, and most of our experiments should be published in the Journal of Negative Results.  That’s right.  It’s real.  And I totally want an article in there.

And with that I will leave you with my favorite comment heard in the lab: “Well… that was stupid.”
QotD: “Knowledge is power! And it’s light weight.” ~Cody, from “Dual Survival”

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Workman’s Comp- the loss of common sense in the workplace

Boss: “Don’t hurt yourself while we are gone.”

Me: “… can I hurt *others*?”

Boss: “… As long as I don’t have to fill out an accident report on them.”

While there are a group of people who enjoy pain, and actually do seek to hurt themselves, this post is not about that.  So I would like to take this time to exclude those individuals who seek pleasure by inflicting pain on themselves or having others do it for them.

That being said, who, in an everyday work situation, seeks to screw up and hurt themselves? We have gone from a workplace enviroment where people were able to function as they saw fit to a workplace where really, they would just rather us not work.  The idea of “accidents happen, be more careful next time” has turned into “accidents can NEVER, EVER happen!”.

Our saftey officer’s name is now a curse word amongst our labs.  He really, genuinely would prefer if we could just do all of our research not in the lab. And if we absolutely must go into the lab then we have to wear almost every piece of PPE there is.  I guess i should be happy he is not militant about goggles or respiratory systems.  If he was militant about goggles I would just have them make me a perscription pair of saftey glasses and call it a day.

But I have two words for that man: MOUTH PIPETTE

That’s right.  People used to pipette things, all sorts of dangerous, radioactive, infectious, cancerous, noxious things with their mouth. Why?  Cause that was the way to get it done!  And this was not too long ago.  Pipettes with motors and the micropipetts are a fairly modern invention.

I will not ignore all the good things the saftey office has given us.  Labcoats are great, because it is always cold in the lab! Really, though, there are many things that do need to be handeled more conciously.  Radioactivity sheilds are important, gloves when handeling practically everything in the lab is important, being aware that the chemical you are about to dump all over the place is an eye and/or respiratory irritant is important.  These things need to be handled more conscientiously, with though, not with Nazi dictations.

It is important to let me do my job. My job which can actually be hindered if I have to take 30 minutes showering in an out because someone who needs to get real thinks that something that is dangerous to mice is going to put a dent in me.  I use Sweet N Low.  That’s right people.  I use the pink package.  You want to know why?  Because I weigh a good bit more than ~15-20 grams.  And I use less than 10+ grams a day.  However, if we are talking something that is leathal at a microliter to kilo level then that is a horse of a different color.  Both of these things involve my ability to reason.

The catering to the least common denominator is what has, to me, bred a generation of whiney idiots. People who have to be told exactly what to do because they are incablable of reasoning, for themselves, that if something is radioactive they should not touch it with their bare hands.  Or that if something is infectious they should minimize contact with it and everything it has touched.  Or, despite the fact that it is SUPER COOL to drink from a beaker, YOU SHOULD NOT EAT OR DRINK FROM LABORATORY GLASSWEAR! Do you KNOW what has been in that thing?  No, you don’t.  But you can imagine all the delightful possibilities, can’t you?  No.  You cannot.  Because making a grilled cheese on a hot plate (from the 1970’s because this is not a new lab) I just used to make paraformaldehyde buffer, and spilled some, just sounds too cool to pass up.  And when you end up ill you think, “Maybe that was not such a good idea.”  Welcome to the thought process.  You should habe been here an hour ago.

It is a legitimate statement that people who cannot use basic reason and logic should not be working in any type of laboratory setting.  If you are the least common denominator I do not want you anywhere near my research.  If you are not capable of looking through a protocol and saying “ok, that makes sense” you should likely not be here.

For example my peer gave me a protocol the other day.  I was thinking through it and it did not make sense that those particular steps would lead to the product I wanted.  It did not make sense.  So I discussed it with others, and went back to her and asked about my misgivings- low and behold she had forgotten the first, essential, part of the entire process.  Once I had learned the entire process I was able to say to myself “Now, this makes sense and will give me the product I want”.

You do not have to know intricate detail (that helps when trouble shooting, and helps tweak protocols, or knowing when you can take the lunch break), but a basic understanding of  “if I do this, what will happen?”.  Not exactly how, or why, just what.

Now, arguably, some research has shown that the brain does not fully develop until early to mid 20’s, and that lack of connection to the frontal lobe inhibits people’s ability to understand consequences and action-reaction in daily situations.  (Because we all know that teenagers sit for hours discussing “Well what would happen if you did this and he said that then she said that”. Ugg.)  However, by the time you are in college, and, presumably, by the time you are working your brain should be up and running, and you should really know not to use the old beaker as a glass for your coke.

If you can’t reason that out then you deserve to be stricken from the gene pool. Not getting workman’s comp, making everyone sit through TWO safety lectures, increasing our visits from the different safety organization, and loading your boss up with accident paperwork.

Time to return to allowing people to utilize their brain, and if they screw up then they get fired, not coddled.  This is not rocket science, this is common sense.

It is time for a little common sense to make a come back in the work place.  Accidents happen, be more careful next time.

(and next time don’t leave the papertowel with ethidium bromide on the countertop where I can get it all over me! Workman’s comp! Workman’s comp!)

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Physician Heal Thyself- Paging Dr Self

No.  this is not a celebratory post about how I am now a doctor.  And let us not even begin the discussion of how I would already be a doctor if I had chosen professional school instead.  That topic will only leave me crying.

This is about how in the current era of modern medicine we all must, to some degree, be our own doctors.

How many times do you save up until you have a laundry list of complaints to go to the doctor?  Or do you sit in the waiting room and attempt to itemize your sympotms in order to give the doctor all the pertinant information, only to get in the room and forget the most important ones?

Being intellegent only makes physician visits worse.  Let us be realistic.  To get into medical school you must be able to make good grades and score well on a multiple choice test.  These things in no way measure your capacity to problem solve.  Sorry mom and dad, little Billy’s ability to out preform his peers on multiple choice tests does not mean he will be a neurosurgeon. Once in medical school you are striped of all your pride and given a God complex.  Don’t get me wrong- you work and study your brains out.  Day and night, for two years, learning everything applicable about the general human body.  Key words there being “applicable” and “general”.

Whereas your philosophical counterpart, ie me, spends years learning minute detail about the specifics.  Key words being “detail” and “specific”.  I will not be preforming surgery, setting bones, or fixing joint problems any time soon, but chances are I can out diagnose you and likely out perscribe you. (This could just be me being catty, because despite these things, I will never make as much money.  But I also don’t have to worry about malpractice)Obviously professional and educational philosophies of medicine do not readily mesh.  Generally, neither do our personalities.

Needless to say, I have a hard time finding doctors I get along with.  And, believe it or not, I dislike physicians who are basically and expensive proxy for me writing my own perscriptions.  I prefer dialouge.  I like to speak with my physician as a equal, as a peer, discussing options and doing research, and having a choice in my treatment plan.  Becase, let’s face it, no one knows me better than I know myself.  And even if I were to write a list of signs and sympotms, chances are I would leave something off.  But if my doctor gives me sopme options I can do what I do best- GOOGLE!…I mean research! Yea, research.  That is what I meant.

But in all seriousness, Wikipedia is a great place to start.  As long as one does not treat it as the end all and be all, it is a nice place to get the basics in an occasionally neat format.  Unfortunatley because different people write different articles some are remarkably informative and well constructed, and some just suck.

However, not all medical personel appreciate the input of their patient.  Which is understandable when you have a person coming in asking for a drug just cause they saw it on the TV or WedMD. (Another reason I just said NO to medical school).  It is like going out, buying thousands of dollars of plants, then hiring a professional landscaper.  The landscaper looks at your property and sees that all of the plants you bought will not be able to survive in the conditions of your yard.  The continual whining of “But pretty! Pretty flowers! You can make it work! Pretty!” will not negate the vast amount of money you spent on flowers that will die in two weeks because they need shade your yard cannot provide.Of course you paying a few grand to a landscaper who plants nothing but cacti in your yard is hardly satisfying either.  It is about communication.

So most physicians attempt to strong arm you into their treatment plan, wasting time, money, and my patience. Life is not like a Dr House episode.  You cannot keep me trapped in a hospital while you randomly throw drugs in my IV hoping for improvement based on educated guesses.  Allowing me to participate in my treatment allows me to spend time looking over the medications and really considering what would appear to fit me best.  Which is more productive than 15 minutes of spin the wheel-o-pharmaceuticals!  Or listening to an outdated lecture on how this is the course of treatment, from the 1980’s (which is why I almost failed fall semester of my jr year in college, and I am still torqued at that doctor).  It is what allowed me to catch my personal, albeit rare, reaction to a drug interaction.  Which would not have happened if I had not done the research myself. But discussing it with my doctor allowed us to better understand what was going on.

There has to be a middle ground.  Unfortunately, I acknowledge that with education being the way it is, expecting your patient to understand the different types of antibiotics or pain medication or actions of neuropharmacitucles is impossible.  Drug reps and commercial pharmaceuticals attempt to bridge the gap, but what can you really learn in a 30 second commercial? So sorry doctors, its time to go back to school.  Patient education needs to be a major part of the medical field.  Granted, a science class in high school might be helpful.  You would be surprised what you can break down to a high school level.  While patient education seems to be, largely, a nurses job- people have a nasty tendency to undervalue our nurses.  Which is silly, because they always have needles and are closer to your veins/ IV bag than most doctors.  Most people only listen to what the doctor says.

Additional attention and education might, *might*, decrease the number of law suits.  You can’t say they did not properly educate you if they can pull out your quiz grade!

So there we have it- if you want the best medical care time to start working on that home MD.

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Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football- a story of abuse

So, actually this is my second post.  Because when I started this blog yesterday I realized I had entered”chemicus cum”.  Which makes no sense at all.  But that action does, sadly, play into my lack of ability to proofread.  Although, give me a little break- it was all one word, and in Latin.  So I have moved everything over here where it actually is “chemicus sum”.

So today children we are going to discuss the topic of repeating history.  Or as I like to call it “Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football”.  So we are not going to discuss actual repition of classical historical events.  My brain has never been good with dates. General time lines, I am acceptible, but actual dates and precise order of events?  No.  Sorry.

I did say there would be discussion of people, and I will try to keep it more a study an discussion on why the hell stupid humans do that as opposed to me ranting about people you likely would live a full life having never met.

There is much discussion of the cycle of abuse.  Someone beats someone else, they leave, they come back, and rinse, wash, repeate.  This cycle is an of itself difficult enough for the abusee.  The eternal hope that their partner will change, the eventual acceptance that they won’t, and potentially the resignation that things will never get better. Like the fact that Lucy will never let Charlie Brown kick the football. That would qualify as a type of abusive relationship.

But what about if you are Lucy’s friend.  You know she is being a horrible person, at least in that aspect of her life.  It is not like she is always horrible.  She has her own advice stand that people would visit and pay for advice.  She obviously has some good qualities, or else she would not have friends. (Wait, did she actually have constant friends?)

Millions of people have that one, crazy person in their lives.  You know that person.  The one who is vivacious, and fun to hang out with.  Every other outing leads to the constant recitation of “We’re going to jail, aren’t we?”.  Those people that seem to grab life by the horns, those people that pull the goofiest pranks- like pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.  Sure, it is funny at first. Then, after awhile, it just seems mean.  Soon you start to realize that, while Lucy is fun, she is also insanely bossy.  That you actually don’t want to spend all of your time with her.  Really, she should let Charlie kick the ball one or twice. She is constantly setting up her advice booth, spreading her ideas all around, and you soon realize that she should be shut down for malpractice.  Eventually the multitude of reasons as to why Lucy has no friends dawns on you.

You also start to realize how stupid Charlie is.  After countless times he should have learned that Lucy will always pull away the football, always. And if she has that behavior pattern with one individual, then she likely has it with others.

So while it may not be a physical football, what has she been fooling you about?  What has she lead you on to think that she will do, and then she repeatedly does not fulfill her promise.

So now, you come to the conclusion that if Charlie is stupid for his repeat offenses, then you must be stupid too.  And that idea never sits well with anyone.  No one likes to be made to felt stupid, to act a fool, even if the only reason it is so is because you failed to put the puzzle together fast enough.

So, perhaps, you keep going back in order to prove to your self how smart you are! Because, indeed, one day Lucy will not pull the football away, just like you thought!  And then you are a visionary because you saw into the future, a new future where Lucy was not such a brat.

People do much to save their pride.  Even willingly subject themselves to abusive situations. People will even contiously go back to an abusive relationship with the idea of “now that I know what is going on I can change it, I can take back my pride”.

Which is a wonderful sentiment, until the abuse starts back.

The only way to end abuse, the only way to stop it, is to leave it.  No pride, no intelligence, no control;  just absence. The abuse will stop when you are not longer there.

You can’t stop abuse.

Just leave it.

 

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Obligatory first post

So. Welcome to my world.

I was reading another blog which pointed out that most scientists were horrible at writing.  I know my English teachers would agree that I am no exception.  Although my GRE scores might say I’m better than most.  However, in an attempt to become a successful PhD student I need to write, and write, and write.
So I will write. And you can read, or not. This will not be all science talk. But it will all be from my perspective, a scientists perspective.
Now don’t be too scared. I like art and music. I am very conservative for most science peoples. I love guns and hunting. You will get some awesome book recommendations from me. If you like Scifi, we are going to be good friends.
You will also likely hear about people you don’t know, people you wish you knew, and people you are glad you don’t. I will try not to rant about the high school “he said, she said” drama, but rather about the actual human element. Cause, lets face it, after years of study I still don’t really understand the average person.
Luckily this thing has spell check, so you should be safe from my hooked on phonics education. And I will try to blog daily, even if it is short.
So, get out of my way! I am a scientist!