Thursday, January 12, 2017

Calling scientists to get involved in scicomm and early education

I have been very worried about the distrust of science and scientific thinking that is creeping into the public and political discourse in the US. If we do not keep science and technology at the forefront of our economic agenda, progress and innovation will stop. Most importantly, I truly believe that more scientific thinking (approaching everything around you with an open, curious and critical mind) can really make the world a better place. One solution for this is for scientists to really get out there to do outreach and education. There are days when I seriously consider quitting my job to tour the Southern and Central states of the US to speak about evolution and neuroscience and the importance of scientific thinking in general. Follow Amanda Glaze (@EvoPhD) for more on this.

I occasionally do outreach for K-12 whenever asked and I do a lot of career development activity, but I felt like I could have more impact by working with an organization. I asked Twitter if anyone could recommend programs to help me find one and boy, the science Tweeps replied!!

There were so many great programs that I thought to collect all the suggestions so that anyone else scientist or teacher trying to create new connections could benefit from this list. Please continue to suggest programs in the comments or on Twitter @TheNewPI and I will add them.

Let's get involved, people!

US programs
Global STEM Alliance (US) - New York Academy of Science programs providing mentoring for kids and young scientists locally in NY and globally
Scientist in the Classroom (US) - National Center for Science Education program to connect scientists and teachers
Science Education Partnership Awards (US) - lists and maps of all funded NIH R25 science education programs so that you can find one near you
BioEyes (US/Australia) - K-12 education programs using zebrafish as a model
Find a Neuroscientist (US/global) - Society for Neuroscience catalog of scientists willing to visit classrooms
MAD science (US) - company providing after school program (may also be an option if you think about transitioning into a full-time outreach career)
Letters to a pre-scientist (US/global) - connects scientists with kids who want to know more about science and what a scientist does
Skype in the Classroom (US/global) - Microsoft effort to allow speakers to interact with classrooms around the world

Local/university outreach program
Science Bus (CA) - after school program K2-5 staffed by the Stanford community
NWABR Speaker Bureau (North West US) - North West Association for Biomedical Research has programs for outreach and promoting science in the community
DC STEM Network (DC) - offers volunteering opportunity to teach and do outreach in the DC area
Penn STEM outreach (PA) -
Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach (NY)
Neuroscience Outreach Group at NYU (NY)

North America
Let's Talk Science (Canada) - mobilize university/college students and STEM professionals for outreach
Clubes de Ciencia (Mexico) - connect K-12 students with young scientists

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Going big for the New Year: sticking to my resolutions

Sitting in the back of an Uber in London between Christmas and New Year's, I was listening to whatever was on the radio. The newscaster announced that a new study had shown that to lose weight after the holidays you have to set unrealistic expectations. The higher the number of "stones" you set as a goal, the more weight you will lose, even if it's just a portion of the initial resolution. As I have assimilated into the American canon that a British accent makes someone more believable, I called on my inner Bridget Jones to make propositions for 2017.

I have already written about how 2016 has been productive, but emotionally destructive. My big thing for 2017 is to always Think Positive. Like that's easy, when you're an overworked, overwhelmed young investigator approaching the finish line of your tenure-track...And while I do this I want to run a half marathon.

I forget who said this, it might have been Under Armour, "When things are too heavy, you need to get stronger". I've been injured a lot while running because I neglected the conditioning and strength training that goes with increasing my distance. Similarly, I feel like my full potential as a scientist is still eluding me because I need to spend more time doing the mental work that goes with the job. The never ending admin work and constant emergencies while I'm in the lab, not only leave me very little time to truly think, but also remove me from the exciting stuff that is going on and from what I love to do. To get stronger, I have work my physical and imaginary muscles.

So what are the steps I'm taking to write a funded R01, publish ground breaking work, get my body in 10-13mi shape and overall figure out my life in 2017? Taking tips from several Tweeps and the internet.

1) BethAnn McLaughlin (@McLNeuro) recommended the Passion Planner in a blog post on Edge for Scholars. OMG, I LOVE IT! Thank you, BethAnn. While I will never ever give up my Google Calendar, having a physical book to write things in has a certain grounding effect (Think 13-yr old full of possibilities. Please add a locket on the 2018 version! I'll pay extra for it!). The most important aspect of the planner is that it doesn't need to be for appointments at all, but just for intentions. Personal, professional, philosophical intentions. It doesn't matter. It provides inspiration for guided thinking about the goals of each day, week, month. It urges you to record the small changes and successes, and to be mindful of yourself. The fact that they recommend to use colors finally provided a use for the pencils I got last year for the adult coloring books I never used. A huge plus. I've only used it for a week, but the practice to define a reachable goal for the week and write each day every good thing that happened has had a strong stabilizing influence. Even when bad things have happened around me...and they already have.

2) Veronica Cheplygina (@vcheplygina) mentioned Habitica and wrote about it in her blog. Habitica is an app that turns developing habits into a game. It's based on the concept that building habits is like building muscles and you have to repeat every day until things become ingrained. It keeps track of habits you want to form and rewards you for sticking with them every day. It's simple and cute, and I'm using it to keep motivated for my Passion Planner entries, be positive, exercise...and floss. Word to the wise, the more habits you try to change at once, the more Health points you lose if you do not check in or do your homework.

3) On the spur of the moment, through a 2-for-1 deal at the airport I picked up "Get Your S*it Together" by Sarah Knight (the author of "The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*uk"). The title seemed appropriate to my current situation, and the book was easily finished in the duration of one transatlantic flight. If you like your life coach swearing you through your life-improvement experience, think of Jillian in the Biggest Loser, you'll enjoy the book. There's something for everyone, even the type-A Ms. Perfect "my s*it is all in a perfectly pyramidal pile, thank you very much" (wink, wink). Having read my share of self-help books, there was nothing new and some of the exercises are exactly what the Passion Planner has you do, but you never have enough motivation, right? P.S. The other book was The Sellout by Paul Beatty, seemingly the hottest book of the moment, by the first American to win the Booker Prize.

4) And now to the real muscles. Because I was away and the flight over was not kind to my running injury, I was desperate to find a good free yoga practice to build core strength and flexibility during the break. Google brought me to Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. The 30 days of Yoga series is great. Each session is 20-35mins and you can do two in a row if you wish. Day 6 short abs workout is particularly fierce. Since every day has a theme, I can see coming back to specific days as needed if I want a short routine or if I'm traveling. Luckily the campus gym reopens tomorrow.

OK, this is all I have. Feel free to share other tips in the comments.