I am immensely proud of being an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley, where I was able to get a world class education and have opportunities to meet with and learn from superb professors, some of whom have since earned Nobel Prizes. Those were some of the most fun years of my life and I also appreciated the beautiful, sprawling campus with lots of fantastic architecture and wide-open green spaces to lounge around on and play catch with my friend every now and then. It is mere coincidence that the day this article published is also Marian Koshland's birthday, and it got me thinking about Koshland Hall, one of the newer (now old, because so am I) buildings when I started college, and which Koshland it was actually named after.
I recall a time many moons ago when I first started my graduate journey at Duke. I was doing one of my final rotations before joining a thesis lab, and I was sitting in a lab meeting where the group was discussing a particular surface marker on immune cells. Apparently this marker (long since forgot which one) could be cleaved and the "shedding" effect led to normal immune function. So silly young me who didn't know asked, "So what happens if you can't cleave it?" At that point one of the research professors said, "Well that's a stupid question" but in a way that was more bemused than malicious, as it turns out that was the thesis project for the postdoc in the lab who was training me. Other than the part where I probably should have known that was her entire project for like six years, I had stumbled upon my first "stupid" question that actually led to tangible answers that contributed to our understanding of science. Not that I actually did the work here, mind you, but someone else also asked that question and decided to answer it for themselves. I've long since forgotten the mechanism or the phenotype of the mouse that couldn't shed that marker, but the core memory stuck with me and shaped the way I approached students and education, because while questions might seem dumb, they at least always make you think.
Ever since my wife started listening to some true crime and fantasy podcasts a few years ago, I ventured on a different path with my podcast journey as I steered toward celebrity interviews, comedy, and the occasional science podcast. Of course you know we did start our own ABclonal podcast, BioChat, and previously we also highlighted a few fun and interesting science-themed podcasts that won't take too much out of your day as you commute or go about your work. In addition to entertaining and educating you, podcasts also have some mental and personal benefits. There are only so many hours in your day with plenty of choices, so let's see what we can do to help with some constructive distraction!
Everywhere I've been in school or at work, there has been at least one session about ethics, whether it was a semester long course, a small retreat, or just a statement in passing for the company to cover their legal obligations. I'd like to think of myself as someone who wants the best for everyone he encounters, and try to live my life based on acceptance and collaboration so we can achieve common goals for the greater good. Because people come from diverse backgrounds with different upbringings, it is hard to distill ethics and values into a simple set of parameters, but I also think that in general, most people know what is right and what is wrong.
As we head out of February and into March, we celebrated the resilience of our colleagues from diverse backgrounds during Black History Month and continue to promote the accessibility to science and STEM careers. There were a couple really important dates to recognize girls and women in February as well, with the National Girls & Women in Sports Day on the first day of the month, followed by the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11. And now in March, we have the entire month to celebrate the contributions of women throughout our history. To kick off Women's History Month, I wanted to take a look at some of the most accomplished women scientists that advanced our knowledge to new heights while overcoming societal pressures and prejudice.
We’ve all been there…the experiment didn’t work for the 87th time, and the feeling of dread and impostor syndrome surrounds the mind as the seminar or thesis committee meeting looms. It’s easy to dwell on everything that isn’t working right at that moment, but there are scientific discoveries to be made, and someone has to do it, and it might as well be you! That’s easier said than done, but with the proper support mechanisms and some confidence boosts, your goals will be achievable.