Category Archives: You might be a #scimom if

You might be a #scimom if…

You might be a sci-mom if you take your kid to the fair and all you can think of as she crawls through the Kiddiepillar is, “Is that a vulva?  Cloaca?  What do you call the back end of a caterpillar?”


And then you go look it up.  It’s technically the caterpillar’s anus.

It’s not too far off either.  Check out this figure from Caveney et al from The Journal of Experimental Biology (and a paper all about skipper caterpillars that can shoot their poop “over distances many times their body length”):

Did you know their poop is called “frass”?  No?  You didn’t know that?  Oh, well, now you do!

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How to calm a baby and/or a baby mouse

Saw this article in The New York Times: “In Parents’ Embrace, Infants’ Heart Rate Drops

As I mom, I can attest to the fact that there have been numerous occasions where my children were crying- either in their bed, on the floor, or in the arms of another person- and the moment I took them into my arms, the crying ceased.  It’s often insulting to the person who has been holding them, but that is what they’ve done.

I’ve written before about research showing just how calming a mom can be for children of all ages- even just that mom’s voice, here.

It’s always oddly fascinating to me when research proves what we’ve always known/felt/believed to be true.

Turns out that human babies, and lots of other mammalian babies, respond similarly to being carried by their mother (or perhaps caregiver in the case of humans), by calming down.

Mother Mouse rescuing her pup from a cup.

Image from Esposito et al of the ‘behavioral task of maternal rescue’ wherein Mother Mouse rescues her pups from a cup.  This is similar to humans rescuing an infant from under the coffee table or a toddler from the monkey bars at the park.

A recent paper by Esposito et al entitled “Infant Calming Responses during Maternal Carrying in Humans and Mice” published in Current Biology looked at the responses of babies (of the human and murine variety) as well as dissecting what signals actually contribute to those responses (in the murine babies).

By monitoring babies movements, crying, and heart rates (electrocardiograms) the researchers found that within seconds of being carried (not just held, but picked up and moved around) by their moms, infants’ heart rates declined, their movements slowed, and their crying diminished.  Compared to an infant laying alone in a crib, just holding the infant while the mother was seated did elicit some calming effects, but not as strongly as carrying the infant.  (I’m pretty certain that further study would show this is primarily responsible for many a parent pacing up and down the aisles of an airplane to placate a cranky baby)

The same happens to mice, and since we can do experiments on mice that we can’t on babies, researchers looked further into the murine response to see how it worked.

Turns out, mice babies cry too (Ultrasonic Vocalizations, USVs).  Just like humans, when a mouse mom carries her pup, it calms down.  In a mouse, that means the pup stops crying/making USVs, adopts a compact posture (drawing up its hind legs and being still), and its heart rate drops.  The researchers used several different techniques to figure out what cues were causing these behaviors and figured out that it was a combination of actually feeling the mother grasping its skin and proprioception (basically sensing that it is being carried).

It’s fascinating to me how behaviors and responses are shared between species. It also reminds me how primal newborns are.

However, the paper had one CRITICAL flaw.  MAJOR.  As in I don’t know how the reviewers and editor missed it.

See here:

A scientific understanding of this physiological infant response could prevent parents from overreacting to infant crying. Such understanding would be beneficial to parents by reducing frustration, because unsoothable crying is a major risk factor for child abuse [26]. Source.

To this I say, “HAHAHAHA!  Are any of you even parents?!  At 3 am when you haven’t gotten any sleep and your kid just WILL NOT SHUT UP- does the knowledge that “the identified effects of carrying on parasympathetic activation and cry reduction were significant and robust” make one damn bit of difference?!*  I think not.

If I had been the reviewer, I might have responded, “If you want those two sentences in the paper, you gotta include a figure on whether that knowledge actually mattered to any parent in the dead of night with a colicky infant.”



*I’m only partly joking.  When my kids were infants and being difficult/impossible to soothe, I did remind myself that they weren’t intentionally trying to piss me off.  I suppose this understanding of what soothes them might similarly serve as a reminder that babies aren’t out to get you on a personal level at 3am by refusing to sleep and/or let you stop pacing around and/or nursing them.

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You might be a #scimom if…

You might be a sci-mom if…know what a Honey Nut Cheerio looks like at the microscopic level.

little scientist mcphd

Mabel and the microscope.

Last Sunday I participated in the Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo 2013 (check out for more info) as a rep from my company.  It was a lot of fun, and I got to talk to a lot of kids about bioengineering.

To engage the kids, I brought one of our light microscopes as well as some sections of mouse intestines and some of the engineered mini-guts that we grow in the lab (hence, bioengineering).

It was fun watching as the kids looked through the scope, asking them what they saw, helping them describe what they were seeing, and then telling them a bit about my research and what bioengineering is.

One of the perks of spending my entire Sunday at this fair, was that I got to bring home a microscope from the lab so I’d have it for the fair.


This is how I transported it- safety first!

Since I had it home with me, I thought I’d let Mabel have a go at it.  So, Saturday afternoon, we set it up on the kitchen table.

We started out looking at my slides of mouse guts, but quickly moved on to other stuff.

We looked at:  cheek cells (from my cheek), ear wax (from Nemo’s ear), table salt, pepper, flower petals, pollen grains for different flowers, a Honey Nut Cheerio, and strands of hair (one of mine, one of Mabel’s).

Mabel kept calling it a ‘telescope’ and we went over that a telescope is for seeing things that are really far away and a microscope is for seeing things that are really small.

We also went over lab safety as she repeatedly tried to eat the Cheerio.

It kept her occupied for at least half an hour!  I’m definitely going to keep this in mind if I have the chance to do outreach stuff with little kids in the future.  With some unused slides, you can pretty much plop anything under the scope and take a look.

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Picking a Pre-school

Note:  This post is part of the Evidenced-Based Parenting Blog Carnival.  This session’s host is Alice Callahan who blogs at  You can find lots of other posts here, from bloggers/parents who turn to science for help with the parenting dilemmas we all face.  You can also follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #parentscience.



I have to admit, when considering pre-school for Mabel, I didn’t put much thought into it.  I didn’t do a lot of research.  I didn’t visit lots of schools.  I didn’t fret about it.  I pretty much went with my gut.

Now, to be sure, it wasn’t an uninformed decision.  I generally keep current with parenting recommendations, so I was aware of the importance of preschool.  Mac and I knew Mabel was going to go to preschool, but the type of school and the timing were dictated more by circumstance than science.

The reason there was no question Mabel would attend preschool (aside from the fact that it gave Mac a break to have her out of the house 3hrs/3 days a week)?  The benefits are pretty firmly established.  This is a great article from The Washington Times that links to a lot of primary literature and data on many of the seminal studies on preschool education- where students were tracked well into adulthood, showing lasting benefit.  For even more in depth info and nuance of how this is studied, and we can tell if there is a benefit, see my fellow Evidence-Based Parenting Bloggers Jennifer Doverspike and Tara Haelle‘s posts.

Orientation Day at Mabel's Preschool

Orientation Day at Mabel’s Preschool

A word to the wise, know your source.  Some of the data on preschool is ‘controversial’- I’m using quotes, because it’s only controversial if you look at certain, questionable, sources.  Public education costs money, and is funded by tax dollars, that means it’s politicized.  It’s not surprising that sources like the Wall Street Journal (which generally has a conservative slant), and places like the Cato Institute report that the benefits of preschool are short-lived, and thus should not be paid for with tax dollars.  Many of those arguments revolve around how much return is to be had from investing in children’s education, in a monetary sense.  Since I whole-heartedly dismiss the notion that the only value of education is to be measured monetarily, I find those arguments baseless.  However, if you turn to peer reviewed scientific sources, it’s quite clear that numerous studies, dating back decades, support the long-term benefits of preschool.

So, then the question turned to what kind of preschool? I should say straight out, that I don’t think where my kids go to preschool will determine whether or not they get into an Ivy League college.  There may be strong data that preschool forms a good foundation for future academic achievement, but let’s be reasonable- we’re talking about a 2 year old.  There are just too many variables to draw that kind of a causal relationship!

I wanted Mabel to enjoy preschool, socialize, and give Mac a break from juggling two kids.  We didn’t need it to offer immersion in a foreign language (although that would be awesome), we didn’t need it to be anything elite or exceptional.  I wasn’t going to jump through hoops, I wasn’t going to pay an exorbitant tuition, I wasn’t going to kiss butts, fret over interviews (of Mabel or of Mac and I), I just didn’t think it was a big deal.  It was only preschool- and as Melinda Wenner Moyer points out in her Evidence-Based Parenting post, the fact that I’m even wondering probably means she doesn’t really need it anyway!

That said, we live in Westchester County, a suburb of Manhattan.  Even our bad schools are good (or my suspicion, maybe our ‘bad schools’ are just not white)- but few provide public pre-k.  Where we are, it wasn’t like I was settling for an inferior program because I wanted it to be nearby and inexpensive.

first day

First day of preschool.

One of the admin assistants at my job lives near me.  Her kids are in elementary school, so just like I did when I was looking for a good bagel place, a guy to fix a flat tire, and a church, I asked her where I should look.  She gave me three names of schools that her kids had attended, or that she knew of and that was the starting point of my search.

The first was ruled out pretty quickly.  It was through a church, and included a religious education component which Mac wasn’t crazy about.  We kept an open mind and attempted to look into it.  However, the fact that we couldn’t get anyone on the phone and nobody would return any of our phone messages clinched it as a no-go.

The second place was a school I actually got to visit (hard to arrange visits when you are at work all day).  It was Montessori style (I guess technically modified Montessori).  One large room, took kids from 2.5-5yo, a lot of “play”, with a well-qualified teacher.  When we visited, Mabel joined right in on circle time and had a ball.  That my coworker’s son had graduated from there and both he and his fellow graduates were all kindergarten-ready was another plus.  However, being one large room, we wondered if Mabel would be distracted or not get enough attention in a room where she was the youngest (for an good look at the research on pros/cons of mixed-age classrooms, check out my fellow Evidence-Based Parenting Blogger Alice Callahan’s post).

The third I didn’t get to visit (work).  Mac reported it was run like a typical elementary school- and seemed to be a tight ship.  They say theirs is a literature-based program; however, we were both kind of taken aback that during certain times of the day, kids were allowed to watch TV!  I’m not paying for Mabel to watch TV!  I’m already paying through the nose for cable- if I wanted her to watch TV, I could just sit her on the couch and save the tuition money!  Mac did feel that this school would make the transition to kindergarten easy- since it was basically run as such.  However, he felt that Mabel was perhaps a little young for it.

Given that Mabel’s January birthday means she’ll be starting kindergarten at 5y8m and not 4y8m, if we started her in September as planned, when she was 2y8m, she’d have three years to spend in preschool.  How did we want her to spend that time?  In an elementary school setting or a Montessori setting?

Well, here is where research really pays off.  I’ve written about it before, more than once- kids are little scientists.  I am not alone in this (check out Fellow Evidence-Based Parenting Blogger Jeanne Garbarino’s post about her little scientists), and the data are pretty clear.  Just like big scientists, little scientists, need to experiment.  How do they do so?  By playing.

My little scientist showing off a 50ml conical tube she brought home from a visit to my lab.

My little scientist showing off a 50ml conical tube she brought home from a visit to my lab.

A 2012 review article published in Science, “Scientific Thinking in Young Children:  Theoretical Advances, Empirical Research, and Policy Implications” does an awesome job of reviewing some of the seminal research in this area and distilling it.  It’s not a tough read if you want to check it out, otherwise, a brief and easy summary can be found here.

The thrust of the literature review can be gleaned from the abstract:

New theoretical ideas and empirical research show that very young children’s learning and thinking are strikingly similar to much learning and thinking in science. Preschoolers test hypotheses against data and make causal inferences; they learn from statistics and informal experimentation, and from watching and listening to others. The mathematical framework of probabilistic models and Bayesian inference can describe this learning in precise ways. These discoveries have implications for early childhood education and policy. In particular, they suggest both that early childhood experience is extremely important and that the trend toward more structured and academic early childhood programs is misguided.  Source: Alison Gopnik, Science

As you could tell from the posts I linked to above, this wasn’t exactly news to me.  Through a combination of benign neglect, encouragement, and laziness, Mac and I attempt to get Mabel to be as independent as possible- from washing her hands to playing with new toys, to figuring stuff out on her own.   (It’s no wonder that when my mom said she didn’t know how to work the car radio, from the back seat Mabel told her, “You’re smart Nana!  You can figure it out!”)

There will be plenty of long years (decades even) that Mabel will be in one classroom or another.  Some will offer freedom of inquiry, others will require rote memorization, some will engage her, others will bore her.  She doesn’t need that dichotomy as a 3 year old.  Mac and I want her to use her inherent scientific abilities while she still can, I want them to be nurtured and encouraged.

So when it came down to it, we chose the modified Montessori program and we’re really happy.

Adapted from Mabel’s school website:

Program … children between the ages of 2 1/2 and 6… modified Montessori approach… stresses both a learning and social environment… cooperation, social interaction, and FUN… preschool program of basic skills, art, music, movement, and games… also offer beginning French and  Italian…  accompanied by Montessori educational materials for practical life, fine motor development, math and number concepts, science, and age-appropriate literacy development. (Forgive me for not directly citing this source for privacy reasons)

Mabel’s school recently held Parent’s Day- where the parents were invited to come and spend the morning.  Everything was play to Mabel. She wanted to play with the pink tower, play with the button box, play with the butterfly life cycle.  Everything was play.  She was learning, and she was loving it.  Soon enough school will be a chore or a reason to pray for snow days, but for now it’s a lot of fun!


Mabel showing me all about the life cycle of butterflies at Parents Day.

So how often?  How long?  How many days in school?  The cost varied depending on the number of sessions, but compared to what we’d paid for childcare when we lived in Massachusetts, the preschool costs were practically negligible (ie I thought the yearly tuition was the monthly cost when I first looked at the pay schedule).  Aside from cost, I really don’t want Mabel (or the rest of us) to feel over booked.  I remember having lots of free time as a kid, to fill however I wanted, to be home and be comfortable.  I want Mabel to have that too.  I read an article in The Atlantic not too long ago (with plenty of data in it) that scared me:

[Peter Gray, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology (emeritus) at Boston College] cites a study which assessed the way 6- to 8-year-olds spent their time in 1981 and again in 1997.  The researchers found that compared to 1981, children in 1997 spent less time in play and had less free time. They spent 18 percent more time at school, 145 percent more time doing school work, and 168 percent more time shopping with parents. The researchers found that, including computer play, children in 1997 spent only about eleven hours per week at play. Source.

Thankfully Mabel thinks all her ‘work’ at school is playing.  Still, I don’t want to manage or run Mabel’s life (or Nemo’s when he’s older).  I want her to have time to do “nothing” and “just play”- which is important.  Both Polly Polumbo’s post and Jennifer Smock’s post for the Evidence-Based Parenting Blog Carnival talk about the data that show just how important.  Mabel is in an Irish Step Dancing class (30min once a week), and a ballet class (30min once a week).  We opted for her to go to school three mornings a week (from 9am to 12pm).  Next school year, we’ll up it to two full days (9am to 3pm) and one half day (9am to 12pm) a week.  Other than that, she’s free to play, go to the library, do whatever she can think up.

pink tower

Mabel and I playing with the traditional Montessori “Pink Tower.” Step 1: Take turns moving the blocks, one by one, to the mat. Step 2: Take turns stacking the blocks in size order, one by one. Then disassemble the same way. Step 3: Take turns returning the blocks to the platform (you can see over Mabel’s shoulder in the first image), one by one.

It is not surprising that Mabel mistakes her school work for play, there are many similarities (and some differences) between Montessori-style and play-based learning (source).  Programs like those at her school show that students are more physically active (not confined to their seats) than kids in more traditional programs (source).  Of course, there is some data to support better outcomes (ie abilities and academic achievement) with Montessori programs (here); however, Mabel is in a modified Montessori program (which some studies indicate limits the benefits).

That said, I am happy to have her in a modified-Montessori, and not a strict Montessori for a reason that relates back to that inherent scientific nature.  Studies have shown that children left to explore an object on their own learn more about it than a child who is shown how to use the object and doesn’t further question its features (see here).  In traditional Montessori, students can’t play with items the teacher hasn’t taught them to use yet, and once they are shown the use, they should not use it in other ways (source).  This irks me- certainly kids should be capable of using the items in the way they are intended (stacking blocks in size order for instance- lets them understand the spacial relationship, sizes, motor skills required to stack them, etc.); however, I think limiting students exploration or imagination with a toy can have draw backs.  Mabel’s classroom is modified-Montessori and I hope the modifications alleviate that.

Painting on Parent’s Day.

There is a lot of data on the benefits of different styles of learning.  I have to confess, I did a lot more research to write this post than I did when picking a program for Mabel.  While I knew much of the info I’ve included here, tracking down sources and finding references certainly reassured me that Mac and I made a good call when putting Mabel into her preschool program- our gut feeling was spot on.

Our choice hinged on (in no particular order):  proximity to home, cost, teaching style, gut feeling, recommendations from other parents, and whether the program would be engaging and fun enough to instill a love of learning while being structured enough to allow Mabel to progress behaviorally and be ready for kindergarten.

I’m certain that not every parent, even given the same data, would choose the same program- certainly not all the Evidence-Based Parenting Bloggers did.

Just check out how other Evidence-Based Bloggers turned to the evidence:

So, I’m curious, how did you choose a preschool for your little one?  What did you consider?


Filed under #scimom, Evidence-Based Parenting Blog Carnival, Mabel, Scientist, You might be a #scimom if

A day in the life of a Scientist/Mother (#SciMom)

Curious what a typical day is like for a working scientist and mother (SciMom)?  This is a run-down of a typical Thursday for me.


The Short Version:

Morning at home- wake, nurse Nemo, get Mabel washed up and dressed, get ready for work, kiss hubby and baby, drop Mabel at preschool, and head off to work.

Day at work- try to cure cancer, work on poster for upcoming national meeting, lunch meeting, rush home.

Evening at home- nurse baby, cook dinner, get Mabel ready for bed while Mac takes care of Nemo, read bedtime stories, sing lullabies, say prayers, tuck in Mabel, nurse Nemo, tuck in Nemo, tuck Mabel in again, and again, and again until she’s finally asleep, take 5 min for myself, go to bed.

The Long Version:

This is a typical Thursday.  Wednesdays and Thursdays are my meeting-heavy days.

Sometime between 6 and 7am:  Nemo wakes, bring him into bed and nurse.

7am: Alarm goes off, Mabel storms in (since she has one of these and isn’t technically allowed out of bed until it turns green)

7:40am:  Everyone out of bed.  Get Mabel washed up and dressed for school while Nemo plays.

Playing instead of getting ready!

8am:  Get myself ready for work while Mac gives Mabel and Nemo breakfast.

8:30am:  Head out the door.

8:45am:  Drop Mabel at preschool and head to work (as a scientist at a biotech/pharma company).

9:15am:  Drive around the parking lot praying that someone left at a random time and there is a convenient parking spot, end up parking in the boondocks.

9:20am:  Sit in the car and put on my makeup (crucial, see here).

9:30am:  Sit down at my desk.  Turn on computer.  Check emails, respond to emails, read abstracts from journal alerts, etc.  If there’s time, check my personal email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  Check in with my technician regarding her experiments for that day. Grab a cup of coffee (there is never enough coffee).

10am:  Tumor Scientist Meeting- all the Oncology Department’s scientists meeting with our VP of research.  Mostly these meetings cover research topics in a lab meeting style, and we all present several times a year.  Other times these are administrative, discussing space utilization, equipment purchases, reports on interesting meetings, etc.

11:30am:  (as long as my 10am meeting doesn’t run until noon) Pump.  I’m still nursing Nemo, and I was nursing Mabel when I started this job.  Thankfully there is a well-equiped Nursing Mother’s Room right around the corner from my office.

12:15pm:  Department Meeting- this is a standing lunch meeting for anyone/everyone doing oncology-related research to present their research.  Scientists and technical staff take turns presenting once a year.  It’s a great opportunity to learn what other departments are working on, and get a chance to present to people you wouldn’t otherwise get to hear from.

1:30pm:  Back to my office- read papers, analyze data, plan experiments, spend time in the lab, meet with my technician to discuss results and upcoming data, work on presentations, respond to emails.*

3pm:  Pump again.

3:30pm:  Coffee- either with a colleague in the kitchen, or back at my desk (If it’s at my desk, I might read non-science news, check personal email, Facebook, etc.).  Get some more work done*

5pm:  Start thinking about leaving.  Save documents, print stuff, wash my coffee cup, shut down equipment, etc.  I  don’t actually get in my car to leave until 5:20pm or later.

5:45pm:  Get home.  Wash hands.  Unpack any perishables (uneaten lunch, pumped milk, etc.), nurse Nemo while Mabel climbs on me and demands attention and Mac walks the dog (definitely looking forward to Spring and the time change, which means it’s light enough and warm enough for us to walk as a family).

6:15pm:  Start making dinner.

6:45pm:  Eat dinner.

7:15pm:  Take Mabel upstairs to get ready for bed while Nemo plays and Mac does the kitchen cleanup.

7:30pm:  Read bedtime stories with Mabel.

Bedtime stories.

7:50pm:  Sing songs (under the stars thanks to Santa) with Mabel and then tuck her in for the night.

8pm:  Nurse Nemo for as long as he stays awake.  Sometimes sit holding him for an hour just because it’s the only time of day I get to be with him without Mabel competing for my attention, and because I really miss holding him all day.

8:30pm:  Shower and get mostly ready for bed.

9pm:  Back downstairs for some time on the computer, in front of the TV, with a cup of coffee, do laundry, other chores, maybe check work emails.  Let the dog out one last time.

10:30/11pm:  Brush teeth and get to bed.  Mac and I head to bed anywhere from 10pm to midnight.  We really try to be in bed by around 10:30pm, but that seems to rarely happen.  Once in bed, we’ll read (an actual book) or spend some time on our phones (playing each other in Words with Friends, checking email, Facebook, etc.), turn them off and then have some actual conversation that isn’t interrupted by little kids.

11pm/12am:  Lights out.

12am to 7am:  Get woken up at the whims of our children for pacifiers, trips to the potty, dirty diapers, runny noses, lost blankets, snuggles, etc.  Sometimes the dog gets in on the action too and barks at a random sound or insists on being let out at 3am.  It’s never enough sleep, and it’s never uninterrupted.  Potty training and a little brother (Nemo is in our room in a pack n’ play, so I think she feels she’s missing out being in her own room) have really interfered with Mabel’s sleep- she rarely stays in her bed all night.


So, that’s a typical Thursday.  Some evenings I head out for book club or a Mom’s Night Out, but those are only once or twice a month.  It’s never enough time, it seems.  I miss my kids desperately when I’m at work, and just can’t seem to get enough of them in the evenings.  Sometimes the bedtime routine runs long and bedtime is later and I enjoy it because it means more time with them (other times I don’t enjoy it because I need 5 minutes to myself!).

So, that’s my Thursday- a day in the life a SciMom.

The big question- have I achieved work-life balance?  The answer- it feels like it, for three reasons.

One, most days I don’t get much time with my kids; however, since they are home with Mac, I feel like they are getting all the love, attention, and nurturing they need (or at least as much as I could give them if I were the one at home).  If they were in daycare from 8:30am to 5:30pm, I’m not sure I would feel the same.

Two, Mac takes care of so much during the weekdays, that I can really focus on quality family time when I’m not at work. I know if Mac worked full-time outside the home it would mean our evenings and weekends would be swamped with errands and chores and oil changes and all the other business of life.

Three, my work is pretty flexible (both my company and my supervisor).  There are times I have to go in early or stay late, take work home, etc, but there have been more times I’ve worked from home (in bad weather), used flex time (when Mac has an on-site job), left early (for doctor’s appointments, swim class, or long weekends), or come in late (TThF when I drop Mabel at preschool).  Combine that with my company’s family-friendly events and parties several times a year that means Mac and the kids can come visit me at work, and plenty of paid holidays (hello- week off between Christmas and New Years!!) and it’s not bad.  Have I missed precious moments with my kids to be at work?  Yes.  Was it hard to be away?  Yes.  Is it unavoidable?  Yes.  Is it frequent?  Thankfully, no.  So it feels balanced.

The day to day can seem harried and rushed, but over the long-term, it feels like it’s working out.  I’m lucky to be able to have a job I enjoy, a family I love, and a husband who loves me.


*As I mentioned above, Thursdays are meeting-heavy, with two standing meetings.  I generally don’t plan experiments for Thursdays for that reason.  When I’m not in meetings (seminars, lab meetings, working groups, etc.), the main tasks that occupy my time are: read papers, analyze data, plan experiments, spend time in the lab, meet with my technician to discuss results and upcoming experiments, work on presentations, respond to emails, attend online seminars, administrative tasks (like approve time cards and purchase requisitions, complete online mandatory trainings, etc.).

My company has an open-door culture.  Unless people have to take a phone call or have a one-on-one meeting, doors are always open and people are always free to be interrupted.  Most of the time this is good, but sometimes it can make it hard to get stuff done (I never have more people come to my office than when I’m attending an online seminar!).  So I’m routinely interrupted by my technician who has a question or needs a hand with something in the lab or my supervisor who has something to tell me.

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You might be a #scimom if…

Your kid brings a 50ml conical tube to Show and Tell.

Mabel showing off her tube.

Last week Mac and the littles came to visit me at work.  Mac and I got our free flu shots, compliments of the company, and then we had lunch in the cafe (I even nursed Nemo right there in the cafeteria and  surprised myself that I wasn’t more self-conscious about it).

After lunch, we took a walk past my office and lab space so Mabel could see everything.  She potty trained herself a few weeks ago after I told her she could come to my company’s Kids Day next year and do science, but only if she did all her pee pee and poo poo in the potty.  It was apparently a strong motivator because a few days later she announced she wanted to wear panties and that was that.

I didn’t take her into the actual lab, but because everything it very open with lots of windows, she could see in.  I showed her “where the scientists do their experiments” and “all the equipment for doing science.”

We visited with lots of my coworkers, and one offered her a Falcon tube as a souvenir.  Mabel was into it.  So into it that she wanted to bring it for Show and Tell the next day.

For Show and Tell they ask the students three questions:  1) What is it?  2) Where did you get it?  3)  Why is it special?

Mabel’s answers:  1) A tube.  2)  At mommy’s work.  3)  For scientists!

Another coworker had put some Trypan Blue in it for her- which seemed innocuous enough given that we all use it without gloves and it can’t even kill cells in suspension, but when I looked at the MSDS I figured it wasn’t appropriate for preschool.

Mabel didn’t want to leave her ‘solution’ home, but I promised her that I would put it back in the tube when she got home and replaced it with water, per her request.  When I got a Sharpie out to label the tube, she asked me what I was doing.  I told her, “I’m writing “WATER” on the tube, because a good scientist always labels her tubes.”

I also gave the teacher the head’s up.  I didn’t want anyone freaking that the scientist’s kid showed up with some kind of liquid in a tube.

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Filed under #scimom, breastfeeding, Mabel, Scientist, You might be a #scimom if

You might be a #scimom if/I wish I was less of a scientist.. crosspost

This one falls under both categories.

You might be a #scimom if… you’re wracked with guilt over buying your kid a helium balloon.

I wish I was less of a scientist when…I buy my kid a helium balloon.


Why?  Because helium is a finite resource here on earth, it’s crucial for many scientific and industrial applications, we’re running dangerously low, and we’re squandering it on balloons!

Seriously.  Given the amount of helium, how it could actually be used, it should be $100!  Somebody tell the people at Dollar General that they’re getting supremely ripped off when they sell me that silver star balloon for only $1!

It makes Mabel’s second birthday party look like an episode of “My Super Sweet Sixteen.”


Filed under #scimom, I wish I was less of a scientist..., You might be a #scimom if

You might be a #scimom if…

… the luggage tags on your breast pump and milk cooler bags are freebies from AAAS and ECI you picked up at conferences.

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You might be a #scimom if…

… your nursing mother’s room has Nature Biotechnology mixed in with the parenting magazines.

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Filed under #scimom, breastfeeding, Mother, Scientist, You might be a #scimom if