That time I got pregnant in grad school…

This is the first of the next few posts where I hope to share with you the crazy journey we have been on during the last year.

My husband and I always knew we wanted to have kids. We also knew timing of producing said offspring was going to be important, especially when it came to where we were in our academic careers. We decided that we were finally going to be able to swing it. My husband was a postdoc and therefore making more money. I knew that my research was coming to a stopping point and I would be writing up to defend soon, so we figured, what the hell, lets try it. Our goal was to try to get pregnant so that I would deliver in the summer, when I knew I would have enough time to stay at home with baby should I have to go back to teaching in the fall.

Surprisingly, we got pregnant the first month we tried, putting me due in July. We kept it hidden from everyone until we went home for Christmas, where we surprised our families. Then came the time to tell my PhD advisor. He was fine with it and apparently had an inkling I was pregnant (probably due to my sudden avoidance of formamide).

Things were great, we were happy to be pregnant, but unfortunately there was a wrench thrown into our plans: my husband’s postdoc lab was running out of funding and he wouldn’t have a job after May. Great. We had a baby on the way and now my husband’s job was up in the air. Thank goodness we still had health insurance through my position as a research assistant so we could have the birth covered by health insurance.

Hubby soon took on the very stressful task of applying for jobs. My advisor told me I could write my dissertation from anywhere, so to focus on getting as much data as possible. Needless to say we were stressed and freaking out. We were working six days a week and nervously awaiting any news about hubby getting interviews.

Next time, I’ll share with you the difficult process hubby went through his first time on the job market.

Advertisements

Book Review: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

Hubby and I have been busy little bees thanks to both of us having to  present at our lab meetings last week and with my students having an upcoming exam. We apologize for the lack of blog activity. Here is a book review for you.

Today, I review Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life by Marcus Wohlsen. I was initially drawn to this book because science in a research lab at a university can be quite the expensive endeavor. I mean thousands and thousands of dollars to run a lab. You just can’t do science because you enjoy it. You end up having to beg for money from the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health in hopes that you will have the money to pay for lab materials, care for research animals, and possibly employ a post-doctoral scientist in you lab. It’s a daunting task. So, I wanted to read about how scientists were doing the sort of science I do every day, but in their garage.

The book starts out with a story of Kay Aull, a woman whose father was diagnosed with the disease of hemochromatosis. It is a common hereditary disease, but is often tricky to diagnose because its symptoms resemble many other health problems. Genetic testing for this disease is expensive, and insurance companies often won’t pay for the test until other disease possibilities have been ruled out. Aull wanted to see if she could develop a genetic test for the disease at home. Aull had the know how since she attended MIT and worked for a DNA synthesis company. She constructed a lab in the closet of her small apartment. She was able to determine that she carried the mutation for the disease, allowing her knowledge that could be valuable if future health issues arose.

This ingenuity and desire to make science more accessible is at the heart of this book. The above story is one of many about biopunks who want biology to be something anyone has the ability to do at home, from guys who want to develop field tests for infectious diseases in developing countries, to a woman who wants to have an at home test for melamine contamination. The book also shares stories about some of history’s earliest biopunks, including Lady Montagu, who played around with early inoculations for smallpox.

The risk of being a biopunk is also discussed. This poorly understood sect of individuals become closely watched due to the threat of bioterrorism. People are afraid of what these folks could be cooking up in their homes. In fact, the FBI has a liaison that attends biopunk conferences in order to build relationships with the community.

Overall, this book is an interesting read. It’s nice that there are people out there who want to make science accessible and affordable. Who knows what types of innovations are being cooked up in someone’s garage?

Getting serious about science

There is a great opinion article from Sunday’s Washington Post by Congressman Jim Cooper and the chief executive of AAAS, Alan Leshner. It basically says the United States needs to get serious about science. We are investing a smaller share of our economy in our research efforts than seven other countries, including Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.  We also have several Congressman who are ready to mock research projects that have an odd name. However, several important discoveries have resulted from research projects with funny names. Also, many people do not realize that by increasing funding to research agencies such as the NSF and NIH, not only are you the taxpayer funding good research that goes through a scrutinizing round of reviews, but you are also helping give post-docs and grad students jobs. You are also helping Primary Investigators buy equipment for their lab, which more often than not comes from U.S. companies, thus in turn helping the U.S. economy. So, tell your congress person that you think funding research is important!!!

Read the full Washington Post article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/its-time-to-get-serious-about-science/2012/09/09/5b5c1472-f129-11e1-892d-bc92fee603a7_story.html

Fun Fish Fact Friday: The Anglerfish and sexy time

Anglerfish are pretty gruesome looking deep sea fish. They get their name from the filament growing out of their head that looks like a fishing lure. This lure is from a modified dorsal fin spine and often contains a fleshy bit at the end that has bioluminescent bacteria.

Anyway, we are here to talk about anglerfish sexy time. In one group of angler fish, the Ceratioids, the males and females have an unusual way of going about sexy time. You see, male ceratioids are small little guys with a powerful sense of smell. His only purpose in life is the find a female. So, using  his powerful sense of smell, he searches a female out. When he finds her, he doesn’t want to loose her, so he bites onto her. And then he releases an enzyme that dissolves his lips and the skin of the female. They end up fusing together down to the level of blood vessels. Then the male literally begins to waste away. He loses his digestive organs, eyes, heart, brain, everything until he basically becomes just  a pair of gonads sticking out the side of the female. These male gonads will release sperm in response to female hormonal changes which indicate the release of eggs. Females are often found with multiple “males” hanging off of them. Crazy, right!!! Look at the pics below.

Female anglerfish with male hanging off of her back. Photo found here: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/rss/podcasts/weirdfins/anglerfish.htm

Up close photo of male on female’s back.

The Oatmeal has a hilarious take on this in comic form. You can check it out here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/angler

 

Close Encounters of the Fishy Kind

Hello readers. Sorry this post is so late in the day. The semester has started and I TA genetics in the fall, which means I am about 100x more busy than I used to be. Today I thought I would bring you another fun fish post.

Fish come in all sorts of amazing colors and shapes. I think that is why I like them so much. Well, today’s feature fish really looks like it is from out of this world. It’s the Barreleye fish, Macropinna microstoma. This fish has a transparent head!!!! And green lensed tubular eyes that have the ability to look straight up and forward!!! And you see them through its transparent head!! This fish lives in the deep ocean, where light is extremely scarce. Their eyes are super sensitive and help these fish detect prey in the dark. When you watch the video, the two little holes above the mouth are actually its nostrils. So, watch this video to see this crazy, awesome fish and keep reminding yourself that this is a real fish!! More info can be found at the link here: http://www.mbari.org/news/news_releases/2009/barreleye/barreleye.html

Fun Fish Fact: Some Fish Change Sex!!

People often argue against homosexuality because they say it isn’t “natural”. However, if you actually go into nature, you will find some pretty crazy stuff happening. One of those crazy things is the switching of sex during the lifetime of an organism. Some species of fish are known to undergo these sex changes during their lifetime, and I thought it would be fun to tell you about them. Continue reading

So you want to go to grad school: GRE and application prep

Today I continue my posts on applying to graduate school. So, you have chosen the schools you are interested in. Having done this, you probably know by now the minimum GRE scores you need to get into a particular program. So, now its time to prepare for the GRE. I will say that personally, I was horrible at studying for the GRE. I was super busy with school, student teaching, and work. I still managed to pull off the score I needed, but it wasn’t as high as I would have liked it to be. Continue reading