Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New series: Notes From the Other Side

Considering I just started this blog in October, I would say that there might still be a whiff of that new blog smell around here. As a newcomer to this community I have learned a lot and gotten a good amount of useful feedback from those with more experience in matters of blogging, teaching, being a PI and everything that comes along with that. I appreciate the comments and they have actually changed the way I approach what I post here. My initial intention was to chronicle my experiences with the hope that they would inform those who are now in the position I was a year ago. While I still try and do that, I also now use this forum to draw on the experiences of those who are further along in this process than myself.

With the new semester upon us, I think it's a good time to add another aspect to the blog and that is to talk a bit more about actual science. As I have begun to explore some (I wish I had the time to read further than I do) of the other sciencey blogs out there I've realized that the research programs of bloggers roughly reflects research biases in the US - that is to say that a large sector of the community works in biomed-type fields and of those who do not, many still use model organisms (human, mouse, fruit fly, yeast, Arabidopsis, etc.) in their experiments. Though a lot of people don't reveal their field, I get the impression that nearly all of the bio-bloggers are working on organisms that would be household names (alright, maybe in a geeky house, but still). That puts me in a niche market, I suppose.

Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to try and put a few coherent posts together on some of the interesting things going on outside model organism world. My motivation for doing this actually came from a manuscript I recently reviewed for a high-impact journal. The authors actually wrote the line "We have shown that xx holds true for the entire spectrum of eukaryotic diversity, from humans to yeast". This kind of shit drives me crazy and is the equivalent of saying "Last summer I drove all across the US, from Maine to New Jersey", but I have seen similar statements in a grant and two seminars. I have no idea if the posts in this series will actually attract any readers, but if I can get just one person to realize that eukaryotic diversity hasn't been neatly classified as Animal, Plant or Fungus since the 1950s (or earlier) or that the organisms we can see out our window represent the minority of eukaryotes, then I will be happy. At the very least, it will save my grad students from having to listen to my crazed rants when I come across statements like the one above.


  1. Sounds interesting. I assume you are aware that you will certainly be making it trivial to pierce your pseudonymity.

  2. I plan on keeping it general and avoiding my particular sub-sub-field, but yes. At the same time, a motivated individual could probably get pretty close from what I have already written, so fuck it. If a person has that kind of time on their hands, fill your boots.

  3. If you trawl through the blogosphere a little more, you'll find that a number of the bloggers (and I would hazard a guess that some in your blogroll), don't work with the more "mainstream" organisms ... some don't work with organisms at all.

    And PP's point is a good one - how much info you divulge about your work is up to you but just be cautious as the more specific you are, the higher the chance that you will be identifiable. A lot of us can be identified with some judicious googling but in general, there is an unspoken mutual respect in the science blogging community with regard to non-blog identities but others may not afford the same level of respect. If maintaining pseudonymity/anonymity is important to you, it's just something to keep in mind.

  4. This sounds really cool.

    I worked in a lab addressing non-biomedical research at one point in my larval scientist stage, and there is a surprising difference in the outlook among the two traditions (say for example, between Dept of Physiology in a Medical School versus a Dept of Organismal Biology in a School of Arts/Sciences).

    At times I wonder what lessons we (meaning the biomedical we) are missing that comparative physiology might teach us, if we were listening.

  5. "fill your boots"? umm....with what?

  6. '"fill your boots"? umm....with what?'

    There's different thoughts on that, but the general meaning remains the same.