Saturday, September 24, 2005


Orientation is finally finished. All programmed time, all day, every day. More tiring than actually going to class, I think.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Decompression IV

4. Finally, and probably most important. I spent a lot of time this summer trying to fit in with my class. Ultimately, I think I wore myself out and didn't leave a good taste in my classmates mouths. Hopefully over the winter I'll be able to make actual friends at Dupont, and if I can't, I'll just have to range farther, because spending time pretending that I can be whoever people want me to be is simply a bad idea.

We interrupt this whiny series...

To present an item from The Guardian's series "Bad Science."

One of the things that happens when you're a science graduate is that people always ask about these things - is red wine good? Why? What about white? How about chocolate? Of course, I haven't read the paper, so the honest answer is, "I don't know."* This is an extremely difficult answer to give when you've just spent the last half hour hearing about baseball stats, or that one time that this one guy got, like, so trashed, and you know that if you don't take the bait, it's right back into the box scores, or...

My urge is to bash anything too radical, mostly because it's unlikely to have been reported correctly, or to be a poor trial design (one that's small or doesn't consider alternate hypothesis that are more reasonable, e.g. children with MS are unlikely to have younger siblings because the parents are too busy dealing with the sick child to produce or care for another child). Of course, my cavalier treatment does cause the appearance that scientists are high priests flinging rhetorical missiles at one another, based on totally arbitrariness etc. etc.

One of my teachers at Norbert U, a lab instructor, told me not to get a PhD. She said there were too many of them and that I should instead take up science writing. I guess that means that if my work is incorrectly portrayed, I have only myself to blame.

*In fact, I barely read the abstracts linked to above. They're simply some of the first abstracts that came up on PubMed

I originally clicked over to the Bad Science post because of a post on: Instapundit

Friday, September 09, 2005

Decompression III

3. It doesn't have to be that way. I don't have to be a single PI, solely responsible for myself. I can find collaborators and set up something permanent. Being the sole professor interested in a single area in a university can give you some crazy ideas, but a good partner can help you balance them out. This is something my advisor has done, and it works well for her. Similarly, I can do something other than research. I can go work for the FDA, or a tech company, or even just teach.

Decompression II

2. Success has many definitions. My classmate S____y says that MSTPs tend to be unsuccessful. What does he mean by this? Very few people are amazing physicians and amazing scientists simultaneously. "We all think we can beat the odds." I finally realized that I don't really plan on playing those odds. On my way back from DMS, I swung by Norbert University,* my undergraduate, and had lunch with my advisor. She has a single paper in PubMed, which is over 11 years old. She has no graduate students. She does not appear to have received any NIH grants. And yet, she's very successful, at least by my lights. She changed my life. She is an amazing mentor, mother and a courageous human being (for reasons I'd rather keep private). I'll bet you Hannon doesn't come close. She's also one of the co-creators of the research project that inspired me to get into research in the first place, which brings me to my next point...

* After the Norwegian Ridgeback from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Decompression I

You may have noticed that summer has ended. Summer session ended a couple of weeks ago, and thus I haven't had many relevant thoughts. Actualy, I had quite a few.

1. I dislike anatomy. I've always thought that gross anatomy is like Clue. By the time the game begins, the fun part is already over.* I'm much more of a physiology man. But, Dr. X was so charismatic, and I was so wrongfooted and afraid I was going to get tossed that I confused Stockholm Syndrome for true like. On reflection, it is a bunch of really boring memorization whose exact function for most medicine, most of the time isn't really obvious. I have a better memory than most, and my particular specialty is long-term retention (rather than volume). But you know what? Anatomy is falling out of my head faster than... ummm... (un?)fortunately, most of my hackneyed metaphors have fallen out of my head as well. I had incredible difficulty studying for anatomy, and no wonder - I have a lot of trouble doing things I dislike.

* Blatantly stolen from the tagline for Kill Doctor Lucky, a rather neat product from Cheapass Games, "Why do all mystery games start just after all the fun is over?"