the scentific life

The Launch of PeerJ - PeerJ Blog.
The Heart of Innovation: Staff Meetings in Less than 10 Minutes.
Is the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) turning down deserving research proposals because of potential biases in the grant-review process? The answer may be yes, if preliminary findings of an experiment being conducted by NSF officials holds up. A recent study described in science magazine, cites one researcher who was ranked highly only by a set of reviewers only in the case where her name was withheld from them.  She concludes: "The current system is definitely a 'a buddy system' where it's not what you know but who you know, where you work, and where you publish. And the rich get…
I was so pleased to have a chance to take part in the Women in Science Symposium at Cornell April 2-3. Thanks to the Cornell faculty and students that put together this wonderful event. For those that could not attend, read the graduate student interviews with the speakers here. Dr. Mary Power is director of the Angelo Coast Reserve, leader in scientific societies, mentor to many successful students, and as an influential figure in several environmental policy debates. Dr. Sharon Long is member of National Academy of Sciences and served as science advisor to President Obama during his…
I am so looking forward to the talks tomorrow. Linda Buck! Sharon Long! Mary-Claire King! and more... Frontiers in the Life Sciences: a Symposium Celebrating Excellence
I am so looking forward to the talks tomorrow. Linda Buck! Sharon Long! Mary-Claire King! and more... Frontiers in the Life Sciences: a Symposium Celebrating Excellence
Bacteria can talk. Yes. Talk. These unicellular, primitive creatures have their own language. They secret chemical words to their environment, where their neighbors can listen, comprehend and react to those messages. This bacterial communication is called quorum sensing (QS). Although the first discoveries in the field of bacterial communication where made more than 40 years ago in the marine bacterium Vibrio fisheri (1), they simply did not have the quorum to be heard. Until Bonnie Bassler came along. Thanks to Bonnie and her colleagues, today, microbiology courses throughout the world…
The New Earth Archive is a resource network of powerful, inspiring books on climate change, sustainability, social justice, and human nature.The students ask you to vote for up to 15 of your favorite books. So pleased, Tomorrow's Table made the list! http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/808430/neweartharchive-ballot Whoie Earth Discipline, by Stewart Brand is also on the list and so are many other great books. Please spread the word. Thanks for your support. The New Earth Archive was developed by students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and supported by Paul Hawken and other leading…
Applause for Plant Physiologist Helen Stafford who bequeathed an astonishing $8M to Reed College in her will. As a woman scientist in the 1950s, Stafford was ineligible for many jobs. Reed College, not deterred by her sex, offered her a position. She went on to establish a successful career and inspired many young scientists. Here is a short story of how she influenced my career. The windowless room, dank an dark, was not an obvious place for inspiration. I took notes, wondering if I would be able to glean anything meaningful from Professor Helen Stafford's (1922-2011) meandering lecture. I…
Applause for Plant Physiologist Helen Stafford who left the Reed College Biology Department $1M. As a woman scientist in the 1950s, Stafford was ineligible for many jobs. Reed College, not deterred by her sex, offered her a position. She went on to establish a successful career and inspired many young scientists. Here is a short story of how she influenced my career. The windowless room, dank an dark, was not an obvious place for inspiration. I took notes, wondering if I would be able to glean anything meaningful from Professor Helen Stafford's (1922-2011) meandering lecture. I was skeptical…
Applause for Plant Physiologist Helen Stafford who left the Reed College Biology Department $1M. As a woman scientist in the 1950s, Stafford was ineligible for many jobs. Reed College, not deterred by her sex, offered her a position. She went on to establish a successful career and inspired many young scientists. Here is a short story of how she influenced my career. The windowless room, dank an dark, was not an obvious place for inspiration. I took notes, wondering if I would be able to glean anything meaningful from Professor Helen Stafford's (1922-2011) meandering lecture. I was skeptical…
The University of California, Davis, will host two Nobel laureates for a symposium this month about the shared characteristics of plants, flies and people in terms of how they fight infections. "Evolution of Common Molecular Pathways Underlying Innate Immunity" will feature the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, Jules Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg, France, and Bruce Beutler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. Luke O'Neill, professor of biochemistry and immunology at Trinity College, Dublin and I will also give lectures. The symposium is…
Jonathan Eisen, scientist and blogger extraordinaire has established a science writing series called "Story behind the paper". The idea is for authors who have recently published Open Access papers to tell the story behind the paper: what sorts of experiences and experiments led up to the new discovery and how we navigated through the publication process. Several years ago Jonathan patiently explained to me what a blog was and got me started with science blogging. He recently kindly extended an invitation to write story about our discovery of a new communication code in disease causing…
Roxana Robinson, a fiction writer, recently described her writing process in an interview with the New York Times. Writing a story, she said, is "incredibly exhilarating. . . . It's like doing a cliff dive, the kind that only works when the wave hits just right. You stand on top, poised and fearful, looking at what lies below: you must start your dive when the wave has withdrawn, and there's nothing beneath you but sand and stone. You take a deep breath and throw yourself over, hoping that, by the time you hit, the wave will be back, wild and churning, and full of boiling energy. It's kind…
Did you not finish all your papers and grants before the holidays? Do you still have papers to review? Dont be discouraged, Twisted Bacteria has posted humorous quotes to cheer you up. Every December, the journal Environmental Microbiology publishes a collection of quotes made by peer reviewers while assessing manuscripts submitted to the journal. Some of them are hilarious! I am extracting a few of them from the last two years, but I recommend reading them all! Here you go: Desperate referees: This paper is desperate. Please reject it completely and then block the author's email ID so…
"Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, amongst the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life". Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, 1962 "We live in a world which is penetrated through and through by science and which is both whole and real. We cannot turn it into a game by taking sides. . . . No one who has read a page by a good critic or a speculative scientist can ever again think that this barren choice of yes or no is all that the mind offers" Jacob Bronowski, author of Science and Human Values, 1956
The last common ancestor of plants and animals may have lived 1 billion years ago. Plants and animals have occasionally exchanged genes, but for the most part, have countered selective pressures independently. Microbes (bacteria, eukaryotes, and viruses) were omnipresent threats, influencing the direction of multi-cellular evolution. Receptors that detect molecular signatures of infectious organisms mediate awareness of non-self, and are integral to host defense in plants and animals alike. The discoveries leading to identification of these receptors and their ligands followed a similar…
Check out this video to see what life is like in Davis, California. If you missed it, dont fret, the Tour de Cluck will be an annual event. Here is a preview for next year's event: our hens, Oreo and Snickerdoodle.
I try not to travel in the spring. Instead of the stale air of the airplane, I try to get out to the mountains, the beach, the garden or to the nearby foothills. Last weekend my daughter and I (who is 8 years old today), went for a walk. I thought she was strong enough to do the 5 mile hike in the Stebbins Cold Canyon Preserve so off we happily went. As we started up the VERY steep hill, her trust began to dissipate. Then the inevitable "I want to go home". I definitely did not want to go home. More than that, I did not want her to want to go home. "Look, a soap plant, the people that were…
For the 2010 Pi day bakeoff, I baked a Swiss chard-Gruyere pie. Shown here is the backdrop to our garden:a mural on the side of our barn, painted with California poppies, rice plants, sunflowers and (look closely) a red double helix. Artist: Jim McCall, Elastic Media. Here is the recipe: First, gather as many ingredients as you can from your garden. In our garden, I found multi-colored swiss chard, Kale, chives, thyme and parsley. Next, prepare the crust: 1 cup barley flour2 cups white flour 1 tsp salt 1 cup unsalted butter 1/2 cup unsalted margarine, frozen grated rind of 1 lemon 1…