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Category → Underrepresented Groups

An apology to my readers

I have changed the title of my previous post to more accurately reflect a comment by Michael Eisen that sharing PDFs of journal articles is an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise.

I had previously compared the practice to the Underground Railroad or Napster music file sharing. I deeply regret the use of the analogy of PDF file sharing to the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who facilitated the safe escape of enslaved African-Americans in the southern US to freedom in the North and northward to Canada.

I, in particular, should be especially sensitive to making such an ill-considered analogy of one of the most degrading episodes in US history to an intellectual discussion of sharing scientific papers.

It was wrong, period. I apologize deeply to my friends, students, colleagues, and any others who were offended by my thoughtless mistake.

Reddit AMA with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Credit: Patrick Queen/Columbia Magazine

I don’t know how many of you tune-in to these “Ask Me Anything” discussion threads at Reddit but I’ve been grooving on them since our colleague Derek Lowe did one back in March. In general, people of note can either propose their own session or be nominated to do so. Folks can ask them any question and the Reddit thread reflect their responses and discussion by others.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the giants in public communication of science. An astrophysicist who has been been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium for the last 15 years, Tyson will soon re-launch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

series. The complete thread of Tyson’s AMA can be found here.

Here’s one of his answers that may hold special appeal to our C&EN readers:

Question: If you think 5 and 10 years from now, what are you most looking forward to in science? Any expectations?

Tyson: Cure for Cancer. Fully funded space exploration. Physics recognized as the foundation of chemistry. Chemistry recognized as the foundation of biology. And free market structured in a way that brings these discoveries to market efficiently and effectively.

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Call For Social Media Success Stories in Academia

"Do you know the way to San Jose?" (with apologies to Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, and Hal Davis, 1968)

We’re packing up the world headquarters of Terra Sigillata this afternoon and high-tailing it out to San Jose, California, for the annual meeting of SACNAS – the Society Dedicated to Advancing Hispanics, Chicanos, and Native Americans in Science. It’s a tremendous organization comprised of several of my former students and faculty colleagues from over the years and I’m ecstatic about reconnecting with them.

With the initiative of my colleagues – Alberto Roca of MinorityPostdoc.org and Danielle Lee of The Urban Scientist at Scientific American blogs (plus a whole host of online activities) – we pitched and were accepted to present a session on Blogging, Tweeting, & Writing: How an Online Presence Can Impact Science and Your Career.

I’ll be discussing how a responsible, online presence on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can enhance networking opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Specifically, I’ll introduce how I’ve increased the exposure of my students who are RISE Scholars at North Carolina Central University. In this NIGMS-funded grant, I’ve been helping my students capture their research experiences in their own words (with previous review by their P.I.’s of course, to prevent accidental disclosure of unpublished data). The students have been surprised by the level of engagement and support they’ve received in the comments from scientists all around the world.

But I know of many other students who use blogs and Twitter to engage with the scientific community in ways that brings them positive recognition outside of their academic and laboratory work.

To better prepare for this session, I’d like to gather some advice from you, Dear Reader:

Who are some of students, trainees, and junior faculty, who best exemplify the use of social media for career advancement?

Are you a student who has had Good Things happen to you because of your social media activities? How did that transpire?

If you have any responses, please drop a link in the comments with a brief explanation – or longer if you’d like! And also feel free to recommend the sites and stories of others. I’ll be sure to promote your responses in tomorrow’s talk and direct attendees to this post for future reference.

The three of us thank you so much in advance for your suggestions!

Project SEED student having a sweet summer

One of the lovely pleasures I have as a prof is serving as principal investigator of a NIH-funded program to encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue doctoral training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.

As one aim of the project to encourage student writing skills and engagement with the public and scientific communities, we keep a blog over at the Scientopia network, NCCU Eagles RISE, to chronicle the progress of these wonderful young folks.

Today, NCCU rising sophomore Victoria Jones holds forth on her current research experience at the Penn State Medical Center at Hershey.

Why do I write about Victoria here?

Well, she is a product of the ACS Project SEED program (Summer Research Internship Program for Economically Disadvantaged High School Students).

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LGBT in the Chemical Sciences: Outstanding Feature by Linda Wang

Join LGBT scientists and allies for the blog carnival at Jeremy Loder's Denim & Tweed. Click the icon for ideas!

Before I get to the meat of this post, I have a public service message related to why I’m calling attention to some superb, recent work by Linda Wang in a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News


This month marks the renewal of the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival, a series of monthly blogpost round-ups centered around a rotating theme of topics related to things unrelated to straight white guys. Launched originally by Dr. Danielle Lee, Jeremy Yoder has offered to host this month’s theme at his Denim & Tweed blog to celebrate the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in the STEM disciplines.

How does a blog carnival work, you ask?

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Minority Student Success with NOBCChE

In 2005, more than two-thirds of the American scientific workforce was composed of white males. But by 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the population. If the pipeline fails to produce qualified nonwhite scientists, we will, in effect, be competing against the rest of the world with one hand tied behind our backs.

This statement came from a superb L.A. Times op-ed in early 2010 by Irving R. Epstein is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor of chemistry at Brandeis University. I’ve used this quote and article for the last two years at the international ScienceOnline science communicators meeting held annually here in North Carolina.

In his piece entitled, “The Science of Science Education,” Epstein argues why – and how – we can better educate and retain underrepresented students in the sciences.

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ACS Public Service Award to NIGMS Director, Jeremy Berg

Dr. Jeremy M. Berg, Director, NIGMS, Bioinorganic Chemist Extraordinaire. Photo: Ernie Branson NIH.

We here at the World Headquarters of Terra Sigillata wanted to send a shout-out to the only friend of the science blogosphere who oversees a $2 billion budget, Dr. Jeremy Berg of the National Institute for General Medical Sciences.

In an April 13th Capitol Hill ceremony, Dr. Berg was recognized with a 2011 American Chemical Society Public Service Award together with Norman P. Neureiter, Ph.D., senior advisor to the Center for Science Diplomacy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The ACS press release states:

Jeremy M. Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been an advocate for scientific research, research training, and programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce. He has served as director of NIGMS since November 2003, overseeing a diverse array of research in areas including chemistry, biological chemistry, and pharmacology. The institute supports more than 4,500 research grants, about 10 percent of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. Under Berg’s leadership, NIGMS has increased the visibility of the role chemistry plays in improving health and has recognized the importance of green chemistry. Berg has also overseen the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award and New Innovator Award programs, which encourage innovation by supporting exceptionally creative investigators. Prior to his appointment as NIGMS director, Berg directed the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., where he also served as professor and director of the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry. In addition, he directed the Markey Center for Macromolecular Structure and Function and co-directed the W.M. Keck Center for the Rational Design of Biologically Active Molecules at the university.

Our overlords colleagues at C&EN – Associate Editor Dr. Britt Erickson, to be precise – also ran an article this past Monday with a nice photo of Drs. Berg and Neureiter.

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HeLa T-shirt and button design contest

Wanna put your mad Photoshop skillz to a good non-profit cause?

Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (and I) need your help for scientist give-away items to support The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. Scroll down to the end of the post for information on the Foundation’s mission or just click here.

I’ll be at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando during first week of April and will be manning a booth to promote the Foundation to raise awareness about our mission and, hopefully, cultivate philanthropy among individuals and companies who may care to support the cause (Disclosure: I am a non-compensated member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors).

We want to offer two types of promotional items that are beyond my graphic design skills:

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