Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscars and science

I’m watching the Oscars and can’t help (apart from crying a tad bit at some of the acceptance speeches) think about the similarities or actually more disparities with science. We (the scientific community) do, of course, have the Nobel Prize awards but in other regards we are so very different from the movie community. This, quite obvious to the ones of us who are living the life in the lab, since most scientist and our discoveries are not really communicated to the public or at least isn’t lived in the eye of the public as much as movies and their characters. Not stating that science isn’t talked about or in the public but seriously, I think that the Academy (Oscar’s academy) has something that we as scientist never really have the way of doing. [I realise now that not only have I adapted an American way of looking at things, since I obviously think that the Academy is sooooo important in the world when there are so many more Academies in other countries, but I do recognize the largeness of the American academy in giving out awards, although the ‘foreign’ film category is one… and the number of the other countries in the world is huge but still, back to the subject I was thinking about.] The thing I am thinking about, after also seeing the SAG awards- which might be a more appropriate analogy since it is the members of the [American] actors’ guild voting for the best actor (genderless in this context), director, film etc, is that this would be an interesting thing for scientists to do.

Mainly I would think about this since the Nobel prize is giving out by a committee of people not necessary in the field and not being a (general) voting by the so called peers. Maybe it wouldn’t be too different to want it is now, maybe not? But I still it would be interesting to see, specifically after talking to my old professors and professors that I have met from other countries, since I am not sure that the “best achievement of the profession” is always handed out by the Nobel prize. (I guess I really shouldn’t bash out that reward since it is a Huge award and from a small country in the north of Europe. We don’t get much more publicity than that…)

Looking through the best movies of the year I realise how many of the movies I would say shaped my childhood, and me, was from the times before I was even born (or at least before I was in my teenage years); All the king’s men, The bridge over the river Kwai, My fair lady , Sound of music, The French connection, The deer hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, Out of Africa (Karen Blixen, maybe one of the most fascinating women in our time), One flew of the Cockoo’s nest, Platoon (still makes me cry and feel the lot of feelings one feels when contemplating war and all the people it touches and destroys their lives), Gandhi (Ben Kingsley… )and many more that I don’t remember just now but still, interestingly they were all before (some of them I really don’t like in a context but they gave me thoughts and feelings) I was born or at least more than a teenager. The fact that Forest Gump won the year The Shawshank Redemption was nominated I can debate a lot, since I didn’t really like FG but love TSR.

But in reality, what I wanted to write about was the thought that we might consider the idea of nominating the “best” scientists in so many categories. Imagine the idea of having an award show where we vote for the best achievement in microbiology, genetics, neurobiology, physics, mathematics, chemistry, biochemistry etc. I am sure I am forgetting tons of science but still, the idea?!?!?

And I guess part of what I like with the Oscar’s is the fact that they (most of them anyway) say in their thanks that it is the work of several people. Although, we all know and understand that the person winning is important, it is due to one person it is still a team effort. The Nobel prize, most of the times anyway, focuses on one person’s struggle and achievement – which is in no means wrong but still, considering the fact that the head of the lab usually relies on the work of other people in the lab, most research today wouldn’t be where it is unless it was other people doing the bench work. And sure enough, it could in many cases be done by drones (read computers or robots or “who ever person working in the lab”) but still, some of the discoveries that have led to a Nobel prize isn’t all together good, or an idea but rather “work done by “whomever” (drones) and interpreted by the One”, or really done by one person.

I do realise that the intellectual work, the actual piecing together or the “thinking through the work and research”, is, at least in older time, due to the PI/head of the lab but still, looking at my experience anyway, the ideas might come from a cross-fertilization (discussion/looking at what people do in the lab) from the lab meaning –you are not thinking it up all alone. Furthermore, I do understand the idea that the guy in charge of the money and writing the grants is the one who will claim the main responsibility (since if it would fail it is on his/her head) but still, wouldn’t it be interesting to see who or what the scientist would vote being the “best achievement” of the whatever years we would vote for? Personally, I can’t stop thinking about the Nobel Prize for radioactivity, DDT, fusion, fission, PCR and Helicobacter pyroli to get the feeling that it might have been more to the ”prize” than only the achievement of discovering just the one thing… but what will happen afterwards… and was there something more “practical” for the scientist that year that happen.

Well, I am going off subject now but in all earnestly I do think that scientists might want to consider more than just getting “that paper in Nature/Science/Cell/”some other journal that is important” to get recognised by your peers. Maybe that PI in the lab next to you who is such an inspiration to you and makes it possible to you to do the research you can achieve from? Well, I am going to bed but I will try and make this more coherent, seeing I am still full with happiness for the people who won their awards and their wonderful speeches they gave. Yey for the whole love and happiness thing. It is really a good feeling and something most of us doing bench work rely on every day since we go in to the lab every day and don’t really have what “normal” people would call a “normal” work week….

As well said (by a non winning but a nominee) good bye and good night. It is surely time for me to go to bed and sleep on all the thoughts and write something else tomorrow.

[My old favourites Sean Penn, Tilda Swinton (so cool and so not in the “normal” [American] woman range), Cate Blanchett, George Clooney and Johnny Depp were there and still, hey are the humble and wonderful, my favourites although only one of them won tonight…
And if you haven’t seen “3:10 to Yuma”, although being a remake, you really should. And please, try to avoid thinking too much about Mr. Crowe’s Australian accent but the rest of the cast make up for it, especially Mr Bale (Christian Bale, a long time hero of mine).

And I am wondering if this might be the most political awards in a long time considering the timing of the serious and reality movies, at 10 pm central time (less than 30 min from closing time)? Documentary feature… I tell you, the thank you speech was short but thanked the (now dead) Afghani taxi driver who was imprisoned and the winner’s father, a navy interrogator who urged his son to tell a story what was happening with the whole interrogation thing. At least there was a feeling of sincere concern about the war and other injustice that happens in the name of USA. And of course (being me) this might be my sappiness showing through but still, art and in this time movies might makes us remember this more than in the old times when the philosophers reminded people about the hardship of being moral and doing right when fighting things and people who don’t care about that.

I have a little bit of feminism and interpretation about the award ceremony but I’ll save it for tomorrow. Just a thought, it bothers me (and I am sad) that every, and this is EVERY time, a man and a woman won together the man stepped up to the mike first and almost every time the man talked first and the woman never had more than a second before the music started they had to say their thanks. Why do you think the recipient of the music awards were allowed to go back (on Jon Stewarts’ time noted) and give her speech? Just saying…

And this would be the Scottish recipient for the music award just came out and was allowed to give her thanks. Since her co-writer/recipient took the time allotted for them to say thank you. A really lovely speech, about hope and dreams that can come true, from both of them. All in Scottish (hopefully but maybe northen English?) and so very touching. I told you before, I am a sap when it comes to being humble, grateful and of course - happy.]

Friday, February 22, 2008

trade or no trade?

The everlasting question that will be answered when I wake up Wednesday morning (so I guess everlasting is kind of an overstatement).
Will he trade?!!?
I certainly hope so. If nothing else, I would have loved to be the one to say “stay in the team, work with the team, win with the team” but alas, it looks like The Leafs have forgotten how to play good every game. They are remarkable, indeed. Not that anyone would want to be remarkable in this way; they went from slamming the leader in the conference to loosing with 8 goals to a sullen bad team the very next game! (Yes, I am still annoyed with it. The fact that they even played in Air Canada Center makes it all even more incomprehensible.)

So, as one can find the best gossip about The Captain of the Leafs in the newspaper Globe and Mail : “” Mark Milliere, TSN's vice-president of production, said the Leafs figuring prominently in trade deadline news could produce record audiences. "You're looking at one of the most storied franchises in sports history potentially shipping off one of their most storied captains in team history," he said. "It creates a lot of intrigue." …///… Toronto isn't the only market where the deadline is getting plenty of attention. In Montreal, the Canadiens are reportedly pursuing Atlanta Thrashers star Marian Hossa, and in Vancouver, the Canucks may be interested in Mats Sundin.””

As long as Sundin doesn’t trade to the Senators (long story but that might be the only team no one in Toronto could stomach their lovable captain in). Trade to the Canucks would be excellent! My two favourite teams combined in one…. But then again, I guess he should go somewhere like The Red Wings (but I am not sure they need him) and not the team in the seventh place at the moment. In my heart I want him to stay away from the Ducks (although I think he would team up good with forward Selanne). Just realised that Captain Pronger is 6’6”… gosh… anyway, not Ducks and they also have Bertuzzi, who kind of lost it that time a good five years ago – what can I say? Apparently my memory is long and bad…

Anyhow, it might be an idea for him to trade to the Western conference since that would make it more obvious that at least that team didn’t beat the Leafs. On the other hand, does that really matter? Not really. Then again, there is the Calgary team – haven’t been too bad this year. I do see that I am leaning towards the Canadian teams or the teams with Swedish players. Well, go figure. Maybe the man I spoke to last Saturday will be right. “He’ll go to the Penguins! Especially since they couldn’t get Forsberg to trade in.”
Wednesday, I and the rest of the world will know for sure. I have goose bumps now. Time to stop thinking about hockey and finish up work.

Monday, February 11, 2008


So, I'll put it to the test - to see if anyone who reads this blog would be able to help out... I am reviewing a paper at the moment and got caught wondering why they would use HBSS as a buffer solution rather than PBS when diluting bacteria and virus.

It is further funny, for me in a strange way,that I never really have heard about it in the first place. I wonder if it has something to do with either coming from a small lab that didn't want to mix four different solutions together and didn't buy it from a company when we had the experience to mix and use PBS all the time, or if it is something else? Maybe HBSS (together with glucose) is commonly used with eukaryotic cells and can be used to dilute bacteria and virus and then they have it in the lab?

Any thoughts or comments will be appriciated. And I have something more to look for and learn more about. Already I have compared the buffer compositions and wonder if PBS has more "buffer potential" due to higher ion concentrations?!

(and yes, I succeeded in handing in the manuscript to my PI today and then I'll see what he says about it. but at least I handed it in in time...)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

leafs are falling...

and it's not autumn. No, it is smashing, hard winter and the Maple Leafs made a terrible game last night. I am happy I missed it - celebrating Mardi Gras (or winding down after getting out from the lab at 8 pm is more true) and watching weather & election reports...

The heart of the matter can be read here. 8 goals to nothing. I think it says it all though?!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Research(er) with zits

Again I notice the fact that after a week or two working with a plastic mouth protection due to work in a BSL2 lab my face has more zits than ever. I truly look like a teenager although I am so far away from that time. Ok, I’ll admit, it is not as bad as a teenager but still, due to my breath, the stress of keeping silly hours and then of course the constant washing and maybe even sneezing while having the face mask on (trust me, that is a gross thing…) I have a kind of break out around my mouth. Ah well, it is all for a good cause?!

I will try and keep that in mind when I go out tomorrow night with zits and black bags under my eyes. “I am just a hard working scientist”. Hm, or maybe I shouldn’t just complain so much, I do research that I find intersting and it isn't going too bad (although as usual it could give more and better results faster). Let’s put the hope to Clearasil and cover up makeup :)

(trying to write an article when suffering from perfectionism and writer’s block is not really my favourite thing but hey, I am at least trying… and my mind is switching between Battlestar Galactica and "men". And no, those two things doesn't clash :) I am so shallow! )