Thursday, September 30, 2010

Event: Investing in Our Future

If you're in the DC area, you're strongly encouraged to join some of your fellow New Voices on Capitol Hill next Thursday to discuss the value of investing in the next generation of researchers (read: you!).

The invite is below. RSVP ASAP and leave a comment so we can be sure to catch you at the event.

and honorary co-hosts

Senator Barbara Mikulski
Representative Rush Holt
Representative Vernon Ehlers

cordially invite you to a luncheon briefing:

Investing in Our Future:
A New Generation of Researchers

October 7, 2010, 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building G50

A robust U.S. scientific workforce is essential for maintaining our nation's global competitiveness, increasing our long-term economic prosperity, and solving many of the pressing global problems we face. But when resources are limited, surviving in an already competitive federal R&D system becomes even more difficult for early-career researchers.

To ensure that we have the research leaders of tomorrow, the U.S. must cultivate a new generation of scientists now, by investing in agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. This briefing will highlight the societal benefits of federal research and the challenges and opportunities early-career investigators face in establishing a foothold in the scientific profession.

Opening Remarks
The Honorable John Edward Porter, Chair, Research!America

James Gentile, PhD, President, Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Iain Cockburn, PhD, Professor of Finance and Economics, School of Management, Boston University 
Marshall Shuler, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, The Johns Hopkins University 
Raquel Lieberman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology 
Meryl Comer, President, Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer's Initiative

To RSVP: Register online or contact Michelle Hernandez by email or phone 571-482-2715.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet Joe Hanson, Molecular Biologist

Today we're introducing you to Joe Hanson, a graduate student in Dr. Lambowitz's lab at The University of Texas at Austin.

NV: What do you do?

Joe: I’m a graduate student, getting my PhD in cell and molecular biology. I like to say the world of molecular biology is 50% work and 50% waiting. I tell people it’s long periods of boredom interspersed with intense excitement. In between those times you have to occupy your brain while you’re waiting.

NV: How did you get started in advocacy?

Joe: In 2008, during the election, being a young politically-minded person, I found out on Facebook about a group called Scientists and Engineers for America. They were working on a science-related survey for the candidates. They wanted us to focus in on local races. I became the Texas state captain.

Through my unsuccessful attempts dealing with the press and [candidate’s] offices I realized how little the people outside of the science buildings we work in realize how these issues affect them. So now I help put on layperson-friendly Science Pub seminars and I blog and microblog about science research issues.

NV: What motivates you to do outreach/advocacy?

Joe: From a grad student perspective I have a unique approach to this. A desire to educate people outside science. For younger scientists like me, especially in the biological sciences - and there are a lot of us out there - I think it’s important for people to develop these skills, to reach outside the science world. As our job evolves in the future, it won’t involve just the bench. It will involve a lot more of these skills - outreach, communication, advocating for solid science. We need the communication with our elected officials to come from other perspectives like post-doctoral fellows, young professors, and graduate students. Not a lot of young people [are doing that] yet.

NV: What limits your ability to do advocacy?

Joe: Certainly trying to graduate. There’s not a system that really rewards young scientists for doing this kind of thing. These are things we feel are valuable, but we're limited by time. It’s not expected for this to be part of our professional life. There are a lot of demands on our time. We give it a lot of value but it doesn’t translate to our day-to-day work.

NV: Do your colleagues do advocacy and outreach? Why or why not?

Joe: I see very few of them doing it. If anything, among graduate students the echo chamber effect is accentuated. It’s such an insular community, and it gets worse when they talk only to each other. Graduate students are nervous to use any of their time outside of lab for efforts like these. It’s very rare. There are people who attend pub nights, seminars, things like that, but in terms of reaching out beyond scientists it’s unfortunately rare. There’s no reward for people taking part in those things.

NV: What advice would you give to a scientist who is interested in doing outreach or advocacy?

Joe: Get in touch with as many other people who have been doing it as possible in the medium you want to be doing it in. If you want to be online, the worst thing you can do it start a lonely blog that no one knows exists.

If you want to start a seminar or science-for-kids series, there are resources where people have done it before and they’re willing to share ideas. They’re not just faces on the internet, they are willing to share and help. Lots of books and publications by the National Academies and AAAS (like Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Unscientific America, and Don’t be Such a Scientist) lay out what the problems are. It pays to study what people need.

Thank you to Joe for giving his time via phone so we could learn more about him and his advocacy work. Be sure to check out his new blog!

This is part of the ongoing Profiling New Voices series.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finding Your Voice

This week's tuneage comes from an NSF series, Finding Your Science. Since this is New Voices, here's a segment on finding your unique voice.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Out of Town

Comic Credit: PhD Comics

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Family, Food, & Fun Friday

Today is full of fun holidays like Family Health and Fitness Day and Punctuation Day, as well as being part of the Great American (low cholesterol/ low fat) Pizza Bake Month. (We swear, we are not making these up.) So since it is Friday, we're taking a few moments to talk about family, food and fun (because we also like alliteration).

Kate's Memories
Have you noticed that it’s cooler in the mornings and the air is crisper? Fall is sneaking up on us! I love the fall. I am a hiker, and the fall is one of the best times of the year to get out on the trails. The trees are changing colors, the temperature is comfortable and the air just smells like autumn.

I distinctly remember hiking in Hocking Hills with my family when I was a kid at least once every fall. It was always such a treat—we packed a lunch, got out our hiking shoes, and piled in the car. On the trail, we would find the brightest leaves to press between wax paper or pick up the perfect walking stick along the way.

I had no idea that those hiking trips in my childhood would shape who I am today.

Heather's Memories
Growing up, my family of five was busy. Somehow, despite softball and swim team practices, my working mom going back to school and my dad commuting from Miami, we managed to eat together almost every night. Many of those dinners are now a blur, but some of the more memorable were pizza nights.

Sure, we all loved pizza (I am Italian-American after all!) but pizza night was special because we got to make our own. Together we'd add homemade sauce, pepperoni, olives, green peppers, mushrooms, and lots of cheese onto dough we'd smushed onto cookie sheets. Our pizzas were special because they: 1. messy 2. rectangular 3. brought us together.

Our advice
Studies show that kids from families that eat dinner together regularly are happier and healthier. So how can you make pizza night just as fun and doubly healthy? Here are some deliciously good-for-you options:
  • Use whole wheat pizza dough or purchase a pre-made whole-wheat pizza dough (make sure there are no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients).
  • Try low-fat/reduced-fat mozzarella (or other cheese) to reduces the fat and cholesterol.
  • Make your own sauce: To sauteed onions and garlic add 1 can of crushed tomatoes, a teaspoon each of parsley, basil, and oregano, and a splash of milk (or pinch of baking soda). Delicious and less salt, sugar and preservatives than jarred sauce.
  • Load the pizza with veggies to give an added health boost and fill you up.
  • Put your pizza on the grill.
  • Substitute chicken- or turkey-sausage or pepperoni for less fat and cholesterol.
  • Or try this collection of healthy pizza recipes.
Also, now is a great time to get outside and make wonderful memories with your family. You don’t have to plan a faraway trip, either.
  • You can take a walk in a nearby park or in your neighborhood to enjoy the changing colors of the trees.
  • You can rake those leaves into a pile and jump into them with your kids and be a kid again, even if just for a moment.

As the weather cools, there are plenty of ways to stay active even indoors.

  • Pull out your favorite music and dance around the house with your kids. You can stage your very own version of American Idol.
  • Play Simon Says with your kids and see who can follow the fitness moves.
Now is the time to teach your family a happy and healthy lifestyle.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Deaf Awareness Week

Sign language alphabet
From the chair in my office I can currently hear:
  • The air conditioner in my office building whirring.
  • Keys on my computer's keyboard clicking.
  • Colleagues down the hall quickly chatting.

When I step outside there'll be:
  • Birds chirping.
  • Bugs buzzing.
  • Radios playing in passing cars as their engines purr (or putz) and their tires crunch minuscule gravel on the road.

This morning, I missed a call from my boss because I didn't hear my phone ring while on the metro and it caused a two hour period of intense work. All because I couldn't hear my phone for a few minutes in a tunnel.

But what if I could never hear my phone? What if I could never hear my doorbell ring, or my alarm clock go off, or that pesky alert-thing from Outlook that tells me it's time for my next meeting?

As we go about our hearing lives this week, take a moment to reflect on what it might be like to be deaf in today's society. Sure, research has done marvelous things to help people (like me) be able to hear and there are a number of fabulous ways that deaf Americans have adapted to living in a hearing society; but we are just that - a hearing society.

What would your day have been like if you couldn't hear today?

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why Science is Important

Just a little food for thought...

Comic credit: Jeffery Brown

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

World Alzheimer's Day

Today is World Alzheimer's Day and nothing is going to make a dent in Alzheimer's Disease like research will. It's important to value not just the research, but those people who make advances in medical research possible. The clip below is from a Rock Stars of Science congressional briefing, where Aerosmith's Joe Perry performs live and unplugged with National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and Harvard neuroscientist Rudy Tanzi, PhD to show that scientists are rock stars too.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Mad Scientist

One Friday afternoon I was driving around when I caught Science Friday with Ira Flatow on NPR. I usually feel like Ira’s on my side—science can be interesting even to non-scientists. Imagine my feelings of betrayal when I heard this exchange on his program.

Vincenzo Natali was describing his new movie “Splice” in which the main characters, scientists, decide to splice together human and animal DNA. Shockingly, the experiment goes horribly wrong. Natali says of his main characters, “While they are quite brilliant and they fully understand the chemical building blocks of life, they don’t have a full appreciation of what life is. They lived a very sequestered, hermetic kind of existence in their lab.” Groan.

SPLICE: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley

Oh wait, it gets worse. A caller comments on the movie, “I wonder what the relationships are of the researchers in real life. I wonder if they’re not cold and clinical in their real life.”

And the worst part is that no one, not even Ira, defended scientists, explaining that they are normal people, too! How could you do this to us, Ira?

Somehow, scientists have gotten a bad reputation for not being able to interact in normal social situations. But are we really any different than other Americans?

• Scientists work hard, often more than a 40-hour workweek. Not to worry though, there is a lot of social interaction in a lab (and much more than at the desk jobs I’ve worked).
  • Scientists have bosses who forget how long it takes to complete a project and wanted it done yesterday.
  • Scientists have office mates who gossip near the water cooler and leave weird things in the refrigerator.
  • Scientists “talk shop”, just like lawyers referencing cases, brokers naming stocks, or mechanics discussing car parts.
  • Amazingly, scientists have normal relationships. Somehow, we’ve convinced someone to like us.
Adam Ruben wrote a post in Science recently about the caricature of science much more humorously than I can. Oh, Adam Ruben, you crack me up! (PS, he’s a scientist AND he’s funny!)

This misrepresentation is clearly a widespread problem. But, what’s a scientist to do about it? We have to change our image. My first suggestion is to get out of the lab and socialize with non-scientists (happy hour with your coworkers in between PCR runs doesn’t count). Have fun, talk, laugh--especially when you realize that most people can’t even tell that you’re a scientist.

What else would you suggest?

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Friday, September 17, 2010

We've got the code, but what does it mean?

If everything you know about DNA came from CSI, there might be a few gaps in your knowledge. It’s not that I dislike these shows, but laboratory scientists everywhere roll their eyes when there is a 100% DNA match…in 5 minutes! (Besides the fact that the scientists in these shows are often depicted as geeks with no social skills, but more on that pet peeve in another post.) It turns out DNA is useful for more than catching bad guys.

First of all, DNA is really cool! (Okay, so I am a geek, but I have social skills!) I’ve always heard the structure of DNA called “elegant, “and I think that really is the best description. There is so much information encoded by only 4 letters put together in certain sequences that ultimately form a message to mean something.

I find it fascinating that more than 99% of DNA is identical among humans. The remaining variable sequences are what make up the differences in each of us, such as the risk of developing a disease or how we’ll react to a medication.
The complete set of DNA in a person is called the genome. The government undertook an amazing project, called the Human Genome Project, to try to understand that DNA. They sequenced the complete human genome, or identified the order of the four bases that make up DNA—A, T, C, and G—in 2003. Now, the really important work is being done. Researchers everywhere are working to understand what that sequence means for human health.

For instance, we now know that a mistake, or mutation, in the sequence of a particular gene called BRCA1 is a sign for increased risk of developing breast cancer. The mistakes can be identified by genetic testing. Knowing that there is a mutation, and which mutation is present, can help the doctor and the patient decide what treatment or preventive measures to pursue.

So, what else can DNA tell us? Scientists are hard at work identifying other mutations that are markers for disease risk and also developing drugs that target these specific mutations. It’s incredibly important for private companies and public research systems to work together to simultaneously develop the diagnostic tests that will be able to identify the mutations as well as the drugs to target them. This type of collaboration will allow sharing of knowledge and money, which is necessary for projects like these.

There’s some great news that will help us utilize the information encoded in DNA. Congress acted proactively to pass the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). This ensures that employers and health insurance companies cannot fire you or deny insurance coverage based on your genetic information. It also means that more people will be able to know if they have a particular mutation and get the treatment that will work best for them.

There is so much information kept in our genome, and we’re now decoding the message and learning what it means. Now isn’t that cool?!

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

If it looks like a stem cell and smells like a stem cell...

Today, I attended my first Congressional briefing--how exciting! Senator Tom Harkin called together a panel of stem cell researchers to discuss the promise of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. I was excited to attend and see what this whole “politics” thing is really about. I am excited now because I think it’s important for people to understand just what is behind the stem cell debate.

I feel like a lot of misinformation is getting thrown around, particularly relating to what can and cannot be done with stem cells. Senator Wicker (of the infamous Dickey-Wicker amendment) insisted that adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells can be used in place of human embryonic stem cells. But, let me back up a little.

There are three types of stem cells that are being studied today: embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells. The important characteristic of embryonic stem cells is that they are pluripotent, meaning they can become almost any cell type in the body, which makes them incredibly powerful tools for research and therapy. Adult stem cells are stem cells that have already begun the process of becoming a certain cell type, so they are no longer pluripotent. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are adult stem cells that have been genetically manipulated to be pluripotent. However, these cells do not behave the same as hESC.

So, many opponents of hESC research say that the latter two types of stem cells are just as good, so why should we do research on hESC? As many of today’s panelists pointed out, iPSC could not have been developed without knowledge from the study of hESC. The point is that the research of hESC and the other two types can’t so easily be segregated. In fact, researchers don’t even segregate themselves. These scientists advocate for research on all three types of stem cells because each type will probably be the best in a particular application. However, because we don’t yet know where each will be the most useful, we must continue to study them all.

One big issue that often gets overlooked is that we’re actually debating whether the government should fund this research. Senator Wicker actually stated that non-taxpayer money could continue to fund hESC research, just not federal money. However, as several of the panelists pointed out, the best research occurs in universities and hospitals, which are primarily funded by government grants. We may not want to admit it, but this is true. The private sector has no interest in the most basic research, on which treatments are built, because it’s not going to make enough money to even break even.

Relatedly, there is a huge fear that young scientists will not pursue hESC research because the funding is just too uncertain right now. Young scientists, in particular, are hugely dependent on government grants to move up the system and build an independent lab. It’s already a tough field without worrying whether your research will be shut down by some injunction or whenever there’s a change in office. These promising scientists might move into different fields or, worse yet, they might take their work overseas, which will really call into question the US’s preeminence in cutting-edge scientific research.

We clearly need legislation clarifying this issue. Tell your representatives and senators that the U.S. must continue to invest in embryonic stem cell research and a legislative solution is necessary to ensure this important research continues uninterrupted.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meet Robert Rivers, PhD, Chemist

Today we're introducing you to Robert Rivers, PhD, an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow.

NV: What do you do?

Robert: I work as American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science and Technology Policy Fellow. On a day-to-day basis I work as program manager and communication liaison.

NV: How did you get started in outreach?

Robert: I started in outreach as graduate student at the University of Cambridge. Always cognizant of the divide between individuals who study in the natural sciences compared to social science, I wanted to be active in discussion that would help to build constructive dialogues of conversation. In such a capacity, I presented talks to general audiences explaining my PhD thesis research. This continued as I worked as a volunteer in Peru where I gave more science themed outreach talks to community groups in several cities.

NV: How much time do you spend doing outreach on average?

Robert: In general the average amount of time I spend on outreach is about 2 to 3 hours on a monthly basis. This encompasses development of lay-friendly material regarding the research and outputs of my office and occasional talks to high school and college audiences about science in general.

NV: What motivates you to do advocacy/outreach?

Robert: I am motivated to work in the area of science outreach and occasionally advocacy (pushing for changes in policy or legislation to scientific insights) to help inform individuals in order to make better decisions.

NV: Do you think outreach and advocacy is a responsibility of scientists? Should it be required?

Robert: I think outreach is extremely important in helping to convey complex ideas to the general public and it is responsibility of the scientific community.

Learn more about Robert's work in Peru, and thanks to him for taking the time to talk with us by phone so we could learn more about his outreach work and career.

This is part of the ongoing Profiling New Voices series.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuneage Tuesday Begins

Today begins a new series for New Voices: Tuneage Tuesdays! Each and every Tuesday, we’ll be sharing an audio or video clip on science, communication, advocacy, research or any other topics we like and want to share.

To start us off, check out this video of “Science is Real” by They Might Be Giants.

Send your thoughts on what we should play on Tuneage Tuesdays to hbenson at or leave a comment.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Democracy Poll

Image source:

It's a government by the people. How are you contributing?

What have you done to contribute to democracy this year?
Paid taxes
Participated in a community meeting
Talked to decision makers about policy
Donated time or money to a campaign
Prevented imminent societal anarchy
Tried to influence public opinion
Run for office free polls

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Stand Up to Cancer

I am going to remain in my comfort zone for my very first New Voices blog post. I figure my background in cancer research qualifies me to discuss the topic of…cancer research. In honor of Stand Up to Cancer Day, I will highlight some of the important work being done by a group searching for a cure to cancer. Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) is a charitable organization dedicated to accelerating groundbreaking cancer research.

At 8pm this evening, SU2C will host a live broadcast to raise awareness and money for cancer research. I know that sounds about as fun as hearing your uncle’s “why did the chicken cross the road?” joke for the 13th time--especially on a Friday night. But, it promises to be entertaining and informative (if only school could combine the two!). Many actors, comedians, and musicians will take the stage as well as scientists and advocates.

One featured group, 46 Mommas, is an amazing group of 46 women who represent the 46 children who are diagnosed with cancer every day. They are hoping to raise $1 million for childhood cancer research, and they even shaved their heads to raise awareness for the cause!

In 2008, SU2C hosted a hugely successful live broadcast that was aired across the country, featuring celebrities who believe in the cause. It raised much-needed awareness and brought in over $100 million for cancer research, which I find pretty exciting (the rest of you can enjoy watching these ladies stand up).

With this money, SU2C is trying to change the way research is done. They are promoting cutting-edge research done by young scientists that might not be funded by other means, which is a huge deal for these young scientists! SU2C has funded thirteen “Innovative Research Grants”. These projects are risky--they may not work. But if they do work, they promise to be a breakthrough in cancer therapy.

One project looks at the role a particular protein, BCL6, plays in leukemia development, particularly in leukemia stem cells. The stem cells initiate the cancer, but are particularly difficult to kill using chemotherapy. Even worse, they can cause the disease to come back once the drugs are stopped. This is why many researchers are studying how to kill the leukemia stem cells.

In addition to innovation, SU2C is encouraging more cooperation among scientists. They funded five “Dream Team Grants”, where each project is tackled in labs across the country.

One such grant involves researchers from New York to Texas who are trying to identify targeted therapies for women with cancer. A targeted therapy is one that is directed to cells with a particular marker or mutation. You may have heard of a common targeted therapy called Gleevec, which kills cells with the BCR-Abl mutation in chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Well, the Dream Team scientists have found that mutations in a gene called PI3K are found in breast and ovarian cancer. They are trying to use drugs that specifically block PI3K to kill the cancer cells. Targeted therapies like these will mean doctors can give each patient the best drug based on the markers in their particular cancer with less side effects than standard chemotherapy.

There is so much great work being accomplished in areas at the forefront of cancer research because of SU2C. I can’t do all of these brilliant researchers justice. You can read more on the SU2C website or tune in to the show to hear from the scientists themselves.

There is still much knowledge to be gained and many brilliant researchers looking for a cure. Funding will give them, and us, a chance.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welcome Kate to New Voices

New Voices is excited to announce that we have a new regular blogger joining us!

Name: Kate Greenberg, PhD
Position: Research!America Science Policy Fellow
Education: PhD in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Department of Oncology
BS in Biology, The Ohio State University
Previous experience: Kate did graduate research at JHU studying cancer genetics and identifying mutations that cause leukemia.
Fun fact: Kate loves to hike and helps the Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training for hiking. Most Saturdays you can find her on a trail somewhere in Maryland or Virginia.

Look for her first post tomorrow!

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meet Lisan Parker, PhD, Scientific Liaison

Today we're profiling Lisan Parker, PhD, who works as a Scientific Liaison.

NV: What do you do?

Lisan: My most current role has been Scientific Liaison between the Global Alliance for Tuberculosis Drug Development (TB alliance) and the WHO Stop TB Partnership Working Group on New Drugs. I serve as secretariat for the Working Group on New Drugs. I help with our mission… my goal is to increase collaboration & networking between industry, academia, and government, and at the same time to increase TB drug research and development (R&D) awareness by tracking and TB R&D.

This is different for me because I have a background in neuroscience. However, entering into global health has been an exciting and great experience. I’ve learned a lot, in terms of what are the needs and advocacy plays a big role in that.

NV: How did you get started in outreach/advocacy?

Lisan: I started doing outreach when I was in graduate school. I realized that there was and is a lack of understanding or appreciation in the general community of what scientists do and there is a lack of scientists trying to explain to the general community and gain that understanding.

In Tennessee I worked with other graduate and medical students to provide the HIV education component to the school curriculum in Nashville junior high and high schools. It was a lot of fun and a good learning experience. It was an opportunity for us to be involved in the community and show kids what they can be and at same time give them information on their health and help them learn.

When I was a post doctorate I was involved in an outreach mentoring program with Rhodes College and St. Judes Children’s Hospital. That was a science based outreach program and its goal was to increase science learning and science excellence, particular for minority students.

When I went into industry, apart from my regular duties, I became co-director for our community outreach program. We partnered with Citizen Schools in Boston. My work colleagues and I created a science discovery class for junior high students called CSI (Citizen Schools Investigators) that taught them how to use science to solve a crime. Our goal was to help young students realize science is understandable, approachable, and that they can do it. And also to provide scientists an opportunity to get out of the lab and make an impact in the community.

NV: What motivates you to do advocacy?

Lisan: Wanting the general public to understand why they should care. Why what we do is important and how it affects them. The reverse is also important. Scientists need to understand what the public needs and how to communicate that.

NV: How much time do you spend doing outreach and advocacy?

Lisan: As Secretariat, I do more advocacy utilizing our new TB drugs website, in January of this year when I started, my predecessor had laid ground work for a blog to be used to increase scientific discussion for TB R&D. The mission is to bring everyone to the table. We hoped to increase/jumpstart that communication. We post to the website twice a week and I go out and send emails to people or contact scientists to do face to face interviews and we intend to also provide future podcasts through our website. There are lots of different ways to collect the message of why we need TB drugs and the impact of current regiments and we attempt to capture that on our blog. We also use other social media outlets such as linked-in and a Facebook causes page to spread our message and increase awareness of TB.

Thank you to Lisan for giving us her time via phone so we could learn more about her and her career.

This is part of the ongoing Profiling New Voices series.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Subatomic Particle Dating

Comic credit: Toothpaste for Dinner

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Weekend Round-Up

The New Voices team and I are heading out early today and won't be back until Tuesday morning. We strongly advocate for you getting outside and enjoying some time off too, but with Earl on the way, that may not be possible for everyone. So to keep you busy indoors, we've got a round-up of opportunities and news.

If you're in the DC metro area, save September 23 for a Women in Science congressional briefing, moderated by New Voice Sheril Kirschenbaum.

Early career scientists who do outreach could now win an award for public engagement from the AAAS. Nominations are due October 15.

The American Medical Association Foundation is accepting applications for its Seed Grant Research Program until December 6, 2010. See

Just for fun, let your love of college football (my team, the Gamecocks, kicked off the season last night) and research combine in this great look at the Top 25 teams' research programs.

For more news, updates, opportunities, and links, follow us on Twitter @NV4Research.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Telling the stories of those on the front lines

While completing my independent project this summer here at Research!America, I've had the opportunity to speak to amazing scientists who take time of out their very busy schedules to do advocacy and outreach to further the goals of all scientists. They excite the public, both young and old, about science and even contact politicians and work to convince them to make their decisions based on the proper science behind an issue.

Each Wednesday (as you may have noticed), you will get to read excerpts from the interviews I did with all of these scientists, to learn from their experiences, read more about their work and career.

The scientists I spoke with are from all different stages of their careers, from graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, to new lab heads, and all the way up to seasoned scientists who've had their own labs for awhile.

Hopefully these stories will serve to inspire both scientists and the general public alike to become more involved in science policy and the promotion of health research and it's importance to our country.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet Michael Barresi, PhD, Developmental Biologist

Today we're introducing you to Michael Barresi, PhD, who heads a developmental biology lab at Smith College.

NV: What do you do?

Michael: I am a biologist and assistant professor at Smith College in Northampton, MA.

NV: How did you get started in outreach/advocacy?

Michael: I am inherently interested in learning and determining the most effective ways to help others learn. Advocacy for others not directly related to my job performance was spurred by an interest in improving the educational environment for my own children and, in doing so, other children of all ages.

NV: What motivates you to do advocacy?

Michael: Pure self-interest in learning and teaching, and hopefully helping my own kids along the way. I also feel in the sciences that in order to truly make an impact on student engagement with science it has to happen at the primary and secondary education level. Come college, most students have already made up their minds. Students need to be excited about science early. Therefore if I am to have any part in that transformation, it has to be through outreach and science advocacy.

NV: In what ways does your outreach affect those you receive it?

Michael: Hopefully makes them more interested and curious about science. Hopefully gets students to start questioning the world around them. And in some cases gain hands-on experience using modern laboratory equipment to apply the scientific method to solve problems in biology.

NV: Do you think outreach and advocacy is a responsibility of all scientists? Should it be required?

Michael: No. Most scientists are trained to carry out technical experiments and further the pursuit of knowledge using the scientific method. However, few to none have actually been trained to do outreach, or even teach for that matter. So there are many ill-prepared scientists that really have no business providing outreach. That being said I also feel scientists are ironically the most prepared to excite children and the public in the importance of science investigation. There are also a lot of misconceptions of scientists out there that only scientists can begin to break down. This will be critical to help students, particularly underrepresented minorities, begin to feel careers in science are actually possible. So in a way scientists do have a responsibility, but unfortunately all scientists are not necessarily prepared to provide such advocacy and outreach.

Thank you to Michael for giving us his time via email so we could learn more about him and his outreach work.

This is part of the ongoing Profiling New Voices series.

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