Due to the Holiday and a family emergency, I haven’t been at my computer much this last weekend. Posting will resume later this week barring any other unexpected events.
When a series of entirely reasonable decisions leads to biased outcomes: thoughts on the Waterman Award
The National Science Foundation just announced the winner of the 2014 Alan T. Waterman Award, the highest award it gives to a scientist or engineer under the age of 35.The winner is Feng Zhang, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute and Harvard. In addition to being a huge honor, the award comes with $1 million dollars of research funding. It’s a big deal. And, for that reason, I was concerned to see that, just like the previous 10 winners, this year’s winner was a man.Now, I want to be clear: Feng Zhang is clearly a very impressive scientist, and is highly deserving of this award. So is each man who won the award in the previous decade. But when male scientists win an award 10 times in a row (in one year, two men won), I would suggest that argues that it’s worth examining the process for unintended biases.
Love the Dynamic Ecology blog and Meg - she’s spot on here. If you’re interested in Ecology at all, this is a great blog on other topics as well.
Food, famine and fungi
Ustilago maydis is a fungus that infects maize crops and causes the disease corn smut. In these images you can see the corn smut fungus (green) infecting a maize leaf (red). This infection will cause large plant ‘tumors’ and can eventually result in plant death.
Diseases like this pose a major threat to modern agriculture and therefore understanding fungal plant pathogens is of huge importance.
BBSRC-funded scientists from The University of Exeter hope to understand the complex interplay between this fungal pathogen and its plant host. This knowledge will then help in the development of novel fungicides that can stop crop infection and keep food on our forks.
Images and research from Professor Gero Steinberg at the University of Exeter.
For more information on his research go to: http://bit.ly/1sbhNCo
For more plant related blog posts go to: http://tmblr.co/ZtJ7bq16IST19r
Or visit our Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/bbsrcnews
- by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan (Fordham University)
"These days, everyone knows academia is a bad boyfriend (or girlfriend, depending on your sexual preference). Everyone has their own tale about how it keeps pulling them back in, with tantalizing offers of interviews and seductive whispers of funding, and then crushing their hopes into the tiny shards of a broken career.
This isn’t one of those columns. No, this is a column about having “The Talk.” Not the imaginary one you have with the academy itself—the one in which you finally kick it to the curb. I mean the one you’ll have repeatedly with everyone you’ve known professionally in the past decade of your life.
See, there’s a difference between bad relationships and academia. When you finally escape a bad relationship, most of your friends will suddenly confess, “I never liked him/her anyway!” Or they’ll join you in a round (or six) while you cry in your beer. They won’t tell you, “Well, why don’t you just give it another year? He’s a really nice guy when he isn’t ignoring you!” Or: “Surely if you just tried to make it work, she would stop cheating.”
And yet, in academia, you hear those things all the time. As soon as you tell someone, “I’m thinking of leaving,” they’ll come back at you with a list of reasons you should stay, give it another year, try harder, and maybe a job will open up. People who try to keep you in academia mean well: Either they have succeeded and don’t understand why you haven’t, or they’re in the same position as you and they’re terrified of leaving. But that doesn’t make talking to them any easier.
This can make the transition out of academia cripplingly lonely, especially if a lot of your friends and mentors are still on the inside. (And then there’s the problem that your friends outside academia won’t be able to relate, though they will try. At least some of them will buy you drinks.)” (read more).
***The problem is, whenever I think I’ll stay out for good, I realise that finding a non-academic job that’s an actual career job, not just a pay the rent and hope for the best job, is no easier to find than an academic job.
A 50-cent microscope that folds together from a sheet of paper will make diagnosing diseases and citizen science disruptively accessible.
"Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. Although it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can provide over 2,000X magnification with sub-micron resolution (800nm), weighs less than two nickels (8.8 g), is small enough to fit in a pocket (70 × 20 × 2 mm3), requires no external power, and can survive being dropped from a 3-story building or stepped on by a person. Its minimalistic, scalable design is inherently application-specific instead of general-purpose gearing towards applications in global health, field based citizen science and K12-science education."
Title: Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
Author: Martin J. Blaser
A critically important and startling look at the harmful effects of overusing antibiotics, from the field’s leading expert
Tracing one scientist’s journey toward understanding the crucial importance of the microbiome, this revolutionary book will take readers to the forefront of trail-blazing research while revealing the damage that overuse of antibiotics is doing to our health: contributing to the rise of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. In Missing Microbes, Dr. Martin Blaser invites us into the wilds of the human microbiome where for hundreds of thousands of years bacterial and human cells have existed in a peaceful symbiosis that is responsible for the health and equilibrium of our body. Now, this invisible eden is being irrevocably damaged by some of our most revered medical advances—antibiotics—threatening the extinction of our irreplaceable microbes with terrible health consequences. Taking us into both the lab and deep into the fields where these troubling effects can be witnessed firsthand, Blaser not only provides cutting edge evidence for the adverse effects of antibiotics, he tells us what we can do to avoid even more catastrophic health problems in the future.
Format: hardcover, 288 pages
Available: April 8, 2014