Tag Archives: science

Just don’t negotiate like a girl.

When I negotiated the base salary for my current job the recruiter actually said to me, “If money is that important to you, perhaps this isn’t the right company for you.”

My response was something along the lines of, “I’ve done my research, I am aware of what I am worth.” What I wanted to say was more like, “Oh, so you give back a portion of your salary just for the pleasure of working there?”

In the end, my negotiations netted me the salary and title of Scientist, even though the position they had been hoping to fill was one of post-doc. However, they didn’t actually agree to pay me what I was worth. Lucky for them the other two companies I had interviewed with weren’t ready to make an offer.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and such. I took the job even though the salary was less.

Sharing war stories with female colleagues and we all got bullish!t responses to our attempts to negotiate, some more successful than others.

Recently I read this piece from The New Yorker Lean Out: The Dangers for Women Who Negotiate by Maria Konnikova.

It was depressing, to say the least.  You should read it, but the crux of the article: women are penalized for negotiating.

I feel some of that still in my current job.  The reporting structure above me is all male.  I get comments like, “Don’t be emotional.”* It’s like pulling teeth to get concrete responses regarding performance and promotion.  While I’m reluctant to blame sexism, the three male colleagues hired within months of me were promoted in January. Myself and one other male colleague were not.

It is disheartening.  However, it’s not in my nature to be cowed.  I speak up, I speak out, I ask for answers, I ask for feedback, etc. And according to the data, I can expect to suffer as a result.

Ironically, after reading the Lean Out piece, I then finally got around to reading/watching this item that kept appearing in my FB feed:


All I could think were two things:

1.  Just don’t negotiate like a girl.

2. I really hope my daughter doesn’t have to put up with this shit.


*This comment is particularly ironic since we all had to do the Myers-Briggs shenanigans and I’m an INTJ (the T being for Thinking, not Feeling) while my supervisor is the “Feeler”.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scientist

What do you wonder? Nerdy Baby artwork for the young scientist in all of us.

I love Tiffany Ard’s Nerdy Baby artwork.  Her books and flashcards feature prominently on my Amazon wish list.

I follow her on Facebook and was in awe of the artwork she posted today.


Source: Tiffany Ard (Click on the image to see it full-size and read the text on the Nerdy Baby FB page)

What struck me most about it was the idea that there is wonder to be found everywhere, even in the seemingly mundane. And really, that wonder is science.

I’ve written before about how it’s not just make-believe that can spark the imagination.  The world around us if full of amazing things.  I love how Ms. Ard captures that with “What do you wonder?”

Turns out, lucky for us, that Zulily* is featuring several of Tiffany Ard’s prints on their sale site right now!

I picked up two of these prints- one for my daughter, and the other for her fabulous preschool teacher.

I also picked up this one for Nemo, who at 1.5 years already said, “Three, two, one, blastoff!”

And this set of “Art Prints for Young Scientists.”

If the Zulily sale is over and you would like to order prints, or if you want a signed print, check out the Nerdy Baby Site.

Have fun inspiring your young scientist!

*Note- Zulily requires membership to shop.  Some of the links to Zulily in this post are referral links.  You can click here to join, referred by me.  However, you should know that if you join, and purchase something, I will get a $15 credit.  So, if you have a friend who is a member, have that person refer you and he/she will get the $15.  You can also join without a referral, but it usually isn’t instantly.

Leave a comment

Filed under #scimom, Mabel, Nemo, Scientist

So that’s how they do that!

Said every writer for movies/TV…


I’m pretty sure this is what the writers for Agents of Shield and Intelligence and most other shows with a science component do when they write.  Most of the time the characters are literally spouting gibberish. Or, in the case of one episode of Shield, they are gibbering about stuff unrelated to what is actually happening like neuron-gibberish when the screen they are looking at clearly depicts red blood cells (albeit they were green).

Leave a comment

Filed under Scientist

The Ultimate Geek Valentine’s Day

This year Mac and I are going to do something AWESOME for Valentine’s Day.

We are going to spend it at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History!

The tickets were a bit of splurge (considering last V-day was take out at home), but when I found out about the event, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Romance Under the Stars

Romance Under the Stars

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a unique NYC experience only at the Hayden Planetarium! Join us for a cocktail hour, complete with open bar, champagne, and hors d’oeuvres, along with the music of the Josh Rutner Quartet. Then join Hayden presenters Lydia Maria Petrosino and Ted Williams in the planetarium for a view of the night sky. Sit back and enjoy some of the greatest romance stories from the ancient celestial past.


We have a membership to the museum, which means we can park for only $10.  Throw in free babysitting from my mom, and it won’t be all that expensive.

I haven’t been to the Hayden Planetarium in YEARS (like since high school), so I’m really excited.  Mac is too!

The only thing that could made this night even better is if Neil deGrasse Tyson is there.

There are still tickets left if you are interested! Click here. (If you’re going, let me know so I can briefly say hello and then leave you to your galactic romance.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Scientist, Wife

Science: Ruining childhood since 1543

In a FB discussion a while ago it was implied by some (who don’t know me) that I’m a stick in the mud, dream crusher of a mother who didn’t “let” her kid believe in Disney princesses, unicorns, dragons, and Bubble Guppies- as in, my 3yo knows those things are pretend/make believe and it was horrible of me to disabuse her of the notion that cartoons actually exist.


If you know the origin of this image, and the person I should credit, please let me know.

Just because those things are pretend/make believe doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy playing make believe. She knows she can use her imagination to think up anything at all, not just what marketing execs at Disney want her to think about when she’s parked in front of the Disney Channel. I’m glad that when she plays princess, she just thinks up what kind of princess she wants to be- and isn’t just choosing which Disney princess to be.

However, what really gets me, what I fail to fathom, is the notion that only pretend things hold wonder.  Have you seen a Cheerio under a microscope?  What about a flower petal?  Salt? Hair? It’s pretty neat.

little scientist mcphd

Examining whatever she could find under a microscope. Even boring stuff can be exciting when you magnify it 200 times.

The actual world, and all the things that actually exist within it are wondrous. Stars and comets, Princess Di and Queen Noor, dinosaurs and narwhals, Sally Ride and Jaques Cousteau- all real and all wonderful and all amazing and all more enthralling than anything Disney might insidiously market to my kid.

Disney has it’s whole “When you wish upon a star” mumbo jumbo, but it was pretty freakin’ awesome to stand in our driveway and watch the Minotaur rocket shoot across the New York sky as it launched from Wallops Air Force Base (click on the link to see the schedule of launches and the map of where the launches are visible).  To then run inside and watch videos of the launch from the ground, learn about rockets, figure out why it looked the way it looked in the sky, etc. was also awesome.  To have Mabel ask for pictures of the rocket launching to take for show and tell was awesome.  To spark her interest in space an space exploration was awesome.  Disney can’t top that.

Distinguishing the real from the make believe doesn’t steal her child-like wonder, it opens her child’s eyes to the wonder that is around her every day, even if most grownups are oblivious.


Filed under #scimom, Mabel, Mother, Scientist

Wordless Wednesday: #GOPshutdown



It’s not like we’re doing anything important here- like curing cancer or anything…


Leave a comment

Filed under Scientist, Wordless Wednesday

How to field stupid science questions from people who should know better. (Alternatively titled: 10 Ways to Spot What NOT to Share on Facebook)

what not to shareFor years now, in person and via email, I’ve been fielding stupid questions about medicine/science from people who should know better.

Just last week I went to an orthopedist (who shares office space with a plastic surgeon) for some pain in my thumb.  The ‘medical assistant’ asked me what I did for a living (presumably ‘professional thumb wrestler’ might have hinted at the cause of my pain).  When I said ‘scientist’ she asked what I did more specifically.  I told her I was a researcher and studied cancer at a biotech company.  At that point she started telling me about some of the patients they see for breast reconstruction and how she was convinced that the government and drug companies had the cure for cancer but were keeping it a secret.  I replied, “How much money would you pay for the cure if you were dying of cancer? You don’t think they’d make more money if they sold the cure?” At which point she took her conspiracy theory to a whole new level I didn’t know existed.  She said, “They are hiding it so INSURANCE companies can make money.”

At that point I realized what I was up against.  She was a ‘medical assistant’ with ‘medical training’ and therefore had an informed opinion on this topic. Surely I was no match for her, what with my measly 15 years of cancer research and all.  So, I just looked at her like the idiot she was, rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah.  Right.  OK.”

Who the heck does that!?  You work in a doctor’s office you dolt!  I just told you I’m a cancer researcher and you suggest I’m complicit in a high-reaching, broad-ranging, multi-national, corporate-government conspiracy to make money by hiding the truth?  Really?

I wanted to walk out right then, but my thumb hurt and I had waited several weeks for the appointment.


With the ‘medical assistant’ (if that’s the kind of assistance she provides, I think I’m better off without it!), I didn’t have a relationship I wanted to salvage so I was fine with being blatant in my response to her lunacy.  However, with friends and family members, I do (presumably) have a relationship I want to remain intact.  So, when my cousin and uncle, at separate times, asked if it was true that companies were hiding the cure for cancer, I said something like,

Glad you’re asking.  You’re right to question that conspiracy theory. It’s not true.  If there were such a cure, it would be priceless.  People would pay anything to cure themselves or their loved ones.  How would hiding the cure make money?  Regardless, there is no conspiracy.  Cancer is incredibly complicated, there are thousands and thousands of researchers all over the world who have been working for decades and decades trying to figure out the causes and mechanisms, and we’re still a long way off.  There is no cure.  If there were, do you think I would let my aunts suffer and die from cancer?  Do you think I would let my uncle suffer through another surgery?  Do you think I would let my mother have lumpectomies and biopsies and live in fear that she too will get breast cancer?  Do you think my colleagues would stand up to accept awards and tell the stories of people they love who died and inspired their work?  Do you think we would watch children die?  No, we wouldn’t.  There is no cure, there is no conspiracy, cancer is just that hard to figure out.

I try not to be offended that by even asking, they imply I would do those things, that money could make me turn a blind eye to the suffering of the millions who die each year.  I’m pretty sure the problem is that they aren’t thinking at all, that’s why they even entertain the conspiracy.


Now that Facebook exists and most poeple I know are on it, it’s cut down on ridiculous emails and face to face conversations.  Instead people post crazy stuff and I have to decide whether to point out the fallacies or just ignore them.  For instance:

A FB friend (who worked at daycare and was training to become a teacher and should know First Aid) posted this gem:

egg burns

The caption with it was some BS story about a person putting egg whites on a burn and EMTs saying the person had saved the victim’s skin.  Um.  Has any Red Cross First Aid class EVER suggested this?!  No.  Because it’s not true!!!  You run a burn under cool running water (or submerse it in cool water) for 10 to 15min.  If it’s severe you call 911. While I sometimes let this kind of garbage slide, this woman should know better.  I commented and left the links below on the photo.  Plenty of her non-critical-thinking friends posted comments with their favorite home remedy- butter, etc. So, I gave up.  (For a reliable source of first aid instructions, see the Mayo Clinic here or the American Red Cross here.)

Not long after this, she posted about aspartame being “Sweet Poison” and causing Multiple Sclerosis- and she tagged me asking if it were true (because that’s easier than just thinking about it and/or checking Snopes herself?).  I linked to Snopes and called it a day (as I drank my aspartame riddled Fresca).

I’ve also seen this BS in my feed several times, including from a librarian who, you would think, would easily be able to find a source to verify the info included:

Really?!  What does ‘active internal organs’ even mean?  Does my pancreas have an off switch I don’t know about?!  How in heaven’s name are all these people dying of stroke and heart attack when all they have to do is drink water?!  Note the web address of the source.  Reminds me of the saying, “You know what they call natural cures that work?  Medicine.”

This is another that is all over FB and I have to stop myself from commenting and being the know-it-all b!tch:

The "FALSE" is my embellishment, Source: https://www.facebook.com/natural.herb.benifits?filter=2

The “FALSE” is my embellishment, Source: https://www.facebook.com/natural.herb.benifits?filter=2

Cinnamon and Honey can do all that?!  Why the hell am going to work everyday with all these scientists researching all these diseases?!  Honey and cinnamon for everyone and we can all go home!  And seriously, they cure the common cold?!  I thought that was just some Shangri-La myth of Star Trek that we’d actually cure the common cold in some distant century.  And again, let us take note of the source.  I don’t trust medical info from people who can’t spell the word ‘benefits.’

Then, just last night, there was this one about Apple Cider Vinegar:

Source:  a chick on Facebook who calls herself "The Nut" which is fitting.

Source: a chick on Facebook who calls herself “The Nut” which is fitting.\

I commented on the photo when my friend shared it, “The only way cider vinegar prevents flu and stomach illness is if you use it to disinfect surfaces.”  You can’t kill cancer cells in your body by drinking vinegar.  It might make your hair shiny and kill fungus when you soak your finger nails in it, but you’re not going to dissolve your kidney stone so long as it’s still in your body.

So, I’m not sure.  Do people just share randomly?  Are they being ironic?  Do they believe this stuff to be true?  Should I make a note of who posts these things and send them a Ponzi Scheme chair letter in the mail?  How do you deal with this lack of critical thinking without alienating the people you know?


How do I deal with it?  Well, if they are asking me if something is true I say something like, “You’re right to be skeptical.”  Even if it’s clear they believe it and are kind of throwing it up there like, “Oh yeah!  Well explain this one know-it-all!  Let’s see how you handle this one!”  I try to let them save face by pretending they ARE thinking critically and questioning the content they are sharing.

One friend recently posted a link to an article entitled, “Merck vaccine developer admits vaccines routinely contain hidden cancer viruses derived from diseased monkeys” on my Wall with the comment, “Umm. Why?”

Clearly her asking ‘why’ implied she believed that it was true (which it is not), like, “Why are vaccine developers doing this?”  Rather than point out how gullible she was for believing something on Underground Health, I started my response with, “You are right to be questioning this, and I’m glad you’ve asked. It’s bogus.”  I then summarized that they are talking about polio vaccine in the 50s and 60s (not current vaccines), it was a virus that was in the monkey cells used to make the vaccine, once the virus was discovered/identified steps were taken to get rid of it, the virus doesn’t cause cancer in humans and nobody who got the contaminated vaccine developed cancer as a result, and I referred her to this great take down of that misleading BS.

She never commented on my response.  I’m sure it’s embarrassing to personally put your own gullibility on display, even if the person who responds is gracious.


So, in closing, I’d like to leave you with a few links that can help you distinguish the bunk from the facts.

Be Careful Who You Ask” in which I discuss sources of parenting information.

Real Science vs. Fake Science: How can you tell them apart?” where Emily Willingham gives pointers on how to tell the difference.

Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience” where Rory Coker, PhD discusses the difference between the two. This might be particularly helpful when it comes to those FB images, since many of them start with a tiny grain of truth (ie vinegar can kill cancer cells in a petri dish), and then take it to the realm of pseudoscience (ie drinking vinegar will cure cancer).


10 ways to spot what NOT to share on Facebook

1.  An image with text on it that has no citations or attributions so you can’t track down the source.

2. You Google a snippet of the text and the first hit is Snopes.

3.  It sounds too good to be true, i.e. the stuff in your pantry will cure anything that might be wrong with you.

4.  You’d be embarrassed to tell your doctor you tried it based on a Facebook post.

5. It implies that any/all scientists, doctors, medical professionals are complicit in a high-reaching, broad-ranging, multi-national, corporate-government conspiracy to make money by hiding the truth.

6. The source is Age of Autism, Natural News, Underground Health, etc.

7. It’s an advertisement for some money-making scheme (diet solution, natural remedies website, etc).

8. It contains spelling errors.

9.  You ask yourself, “That can’t possibly be true, can it?”

10. It includes the admonition to “Share if you care,” “MUST Share,” or otherwise encourages you to spread the word.


Filed under Scientist

A little help from my friends…

Yesterday morning I posted this as my status update:

It is too early for this. I have not yet had my coffee and there is a paper in my inbox yet further complicating an already super complicated signaling pathway I’m trying to understand. One orphan receptor, another possibly de-orphaned receptor, both of which may act as co-receptors for other, seemingly completely unrelated and super complicated signaling pathways, regeneration in a variety or organs, overexpressed in a variety of tumors- overwhelming. I will allow myself this moment to be overwhelmed by the complexities and then I will get coffee.

After a few minutes of my mind reeling and feeling overwhelmed, I got up to go get coffee in the kitchen.

Shortly after that, as I sipped and pondered and PubMed searched I got a FB notification.  This was on my wall:

Instantly, a smile spread across my face.  Yes, it was my own words, but seeing it visually, in that way, knowing my friend had taken the time to make it and share it with me, really helped me shake it off and get on with figuring it out.

Kelly is such a talented artist, nurturing mom, caring friend, and brave person, that I was also honored that my words had resonated with her.

I’m going to let my words and her visual presentation remind me that I can take the moment to be overwhelmed, and then move on with the business of work/life/science.  I may have been talking about my research when I typed it, but it’s worth keeping in mind in any overwhelming situation.

Thanks again Kelly!

And if you want to see more Kelly’s work, her blog has lots of inspiring pieces (including this one I purchased for my mom a while back!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Scientist


Caffeine has been my friend of late (see below).  I can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since I posted here.  We had a week with Mac working an on-site freelance job and my mom minding the kids (seriously households with two working parents, how the hell do you do it?).  We had weekends away to visit family.  Lots of stuff going on, but it’s mainly the science’s fault.

I’ve been swamped at work- not only with my actual research, mentoring a summer intern, helping a new post-doc get settled, but with a bunch of outreach activities.  The company has a summer volunteer initiative to promote STEM education, and I was tapped to be the ‘lead volunteer’- which means I have to do it all with only the help of a ‘communications’ intern.  We had off-site events, on-site events, exhausting events, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, I’m tired just thinking about it.

Thankfully, the last event was yesterday, a STEM camp with 140 kids grades 1 to 5.  I enjoy doing the outreach, but the prep and the execution of these events has left me soooo burned out and tired. My intern presents at lab meeting tomorrow and a company-wide meeting (of which he was chosen as just 5 out of 80) on Friday and then he’s finished for the summer. My Research Associate gets married on Saturday and jets off on her honeymoon for a few weeks.  I’m hoping a week in Maine will bring me back to my normal (exhausted, but not burned out) and I will return to work with no RA, no intern, no STEM outreach- at least for a few weeks.  Sounds relaxing.

In the meantime, here’s a really beautiful pseudocolored image of caffeine, my friend and constant companion.

Source, Wellcome Trust via IFLS

Source, Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy at Wellcome Collection via IFLS


1 Comment

Filed under Scientist

Another unremarkable reaction to vaccinations

My friend and fellow Evidence-Based Parenting blogger, Tara Haelle shared her story of her son’s unremarkable reaction to his childhood vaccinations, here.  She also dissected a recent study from Pediatrics, the journal of the American Association of Pediatricians, on the impact of religious exemptions on  pertussis rates.  You can read Tara’s post here.  You can also join the Evidence-Based Parenting community on Facebook and discuss it, share your stories, here.

I’ve written before about the importance of vaccinations.  I’ve even written about a case of measles that hit WAY to close to home for me, here.  In light of that, the study which Tara wrote about is concerning to me.  The crux of that paper from Pediatrics?  “Counties with higher exemption rates had higher rates of reported pertussis among exempted and vaccinated children when compared with the low-exemption counties.” (Source).

If you think that choosing NOT to vaccinate your child doesn’t impact anyone else in your community, you are WRONG!

Parents are lying about their religious beliefs to score immunization waivers on the basis of a religious objection.  Those lies, that failure to vaccinate is having real and measurable impacts on their communities, in the form of increased cases of pertussis.  Vaccination is important.  Vaccines save lives.  We all have to do our part to keep our communities safe and healthy.

Today, I’ll join Tara and I’ll add my voice to the chorus of vaccine stories.

I have two children, Mable is 3.5 and Nemo just turned one.  Both children have been vaccinated according to the standard schedule recommended by the CDC, AAP, AMA, etc.

While I have done a lot of reading on the topic of childhood vaccinations, we relied heavily on the decades of schooling and practice that our pediatricians and nurse practitioners had, in deciding how to vaccinate our kids.

Columbus wknd mcphd

Both of my remarkable children have had only unremarkable reactions to their vaccinations.

Just last week Nemo recieved his first dose of the MMR vaccine and the Varicella vaccine.

I could not even tell you what happened after each and every vaccination.  I have a recollection of Mabel sleeping through the night for the first time after getting several vaccinations at her 8 week well child visit.  I have a recollection of Nemo having a slight fever after some shots- I don’t remember which ones or how old he was.

My experience has been completely unremarkable.  Other than expected tenderness at the injection site or being sleepier than usual, maybe a fever, neither of my kids have had any reactions.  And, as is clear from my inability to recall details, those reactions aren’t even memorable enough for me to recall.

That’s my unremarkable vaccine reaction story.  What’s yours?  Share it here or with other Evidence-Based Parents on Facebook.


Filed under #scimom, Evidence-Based Parenting Blog Carnival, Mabel, Mother, Nemo, Scientist