Showing posts from 2016

Life Beyond the Lab

What is a scientist? “A scientist is a person who wears a lab coat, glasses, gloves, has messy hair and works with green substances, and probably he/she is a bit crazy!” That was my 9 year-old niece`s answer when I asked her about how she pictured a scientist. Interestingly, that thought is not confined to children, in fact it is a popular image of a scientist (except for the green stuff) among non-scientists. But we, as scientists, know that this perception is far from the truth. We all know that science can be all consuming at times, at times absorbing 80% of our day. Between failed and successful experiments, biological discussions, database searches, statistical analyses that fall just short of significance, meeting with our supervisor to discuss all the details, and at the end of the day dreaming about all of the above. Without noticing, we start giving more and more of our time to science and less to our lives beyond the lab. We start cancelling meetings with friends, family and…

Emerging Technologies – same questions, new toys

One of the most formative moments of my PhD training was an afternoon in my supervisor Professor Connie Eaves’ office discussing potential ways to study the direct progeny of single blood stem cells. At this point (~2005), a handful of groups had shown that a single cell could be transplanted into a recipient mouse and durably give rise to all of the mature blood cell types.  We were interested in trying to formally demonstrate whether one blood stem cell could create two in vitro, and if so, at what frequency. The question had actually stemmed from a thesis committee meeting that the student above me (Brad Dykstra) had just had where his committee discussed possible ways to get at the question (the value of strong thesis committees cannot be underestimated, and I should note that longstanding ISEH member Kelly McNagny was on both mine and Brad’s and was an idea machine!).

Anyhow, Connie sat and politely listened to our “really novel” idea and the sort of MacGyver approach that we were…

Finding Your Way through the Smog: Musings of a Graduate Student

When I entered graduate school, one of the things I quickly learned was how different the trajectory of my ‘schooling’ would be than that of my peers in other programs. Sure, I had required courses as a first year Ph.D. student, but beyond that point, life as a Ph.D. candidate takes a much more independent and unpredictable course than that of students in other professional schools. There is no set timeline of when you will graduate, and this can be as daunting as it is freeing. We all have that one family member who makes it a point of asking you “when will you graduate”, and “why can’t you just hurry up and wrap things up one year sooner?” For better or worse, your dedication to seeing your thesis project to completion is one of the key determinants in how your graduate career will play out.  But even the most motivated and passionate student will bear inevitable pitfalls. This is often where the graduate student life turns most bleak. From staring into the black hole of a confocal …

Part one: Women in Science - What is the Situation?

In the past several years, several prominent, successful female scientists have led ISEH, but that was not always the case. In the 45 years since its incorporation, ISEH has had 5 female presidents, all serving since 2003. This change reflects the slow, positive shift in society that has been at play for over a century. For many, your grandmother (or mother or great grandmother, depending on your generation) may have wished to have a career but instead was expected (and became) a housewife for her entire life. Her daughter (your sister, mother or grandmother) had a career (usually an “acceptable” female-oriented career, such as a nurse or a teacher) but was likely forced to resign when she had children. She may have had the option of returning to her career when the children were older but was denied the opportunity to take on a leadership position. Very few women became scientists; in fact, even in the mid 1900s if a woman enrolled in a science degree it was considered to be newswort…

Collaborations: A Projection to the Very Near Future

Scientists all know how important it is to collaborate. We can see it among the groups around us and we engage in it ourselves. We go to conferences and meet interesting people that can help us evolve our projects with innovative ideas or technological advances. We often seek collaboration when the projects have already advanced and we know what we have to gain or lose. But maybe this is not enough? How can we become even better at collaboration?

I think this is a really important issue that we should contemplate. First, research in life sciences has become more specialized and complicated. We have become increasingly aware that a single line of expertise is not enough. To publish a good paper, you need to provide ample data and cover a wide range of high-level techniques. We all know that it takes a great deal of effort and resources to become an expert in “everything”. This problem affects smaller labs and junior group leaders, in particular, who do not have the resources to adapt ev…

Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM): Lessons from Biotech

“Don't think you are the smartest person in the room, to be a successful company you never should be.”—Mathew Sowa

Regardless of where you are working, good science is driven by active curiosity and asking good questions. The differences come in how you approach answering those questions. Continuing our ongoing discussion about biotech careers, this blog will describe some key differences between academia and biotech along with some advice on how to utilize what you learn during your academic training to succeed in biotech. A huge thanks to Michelle Lin (Research Scientist at CRISPR Therapeutics, ~1 year in biotech), Mathew Sowa (Director at C4 Therapeutics, 5+ years in biotech), and Hariharan Jayaram (Associate Director at Editas Medicine, Inc., 6+ years in biotech) for sharing their experiences and advice!

------------ When asked about the biggest difference in day-to-day life in biotech vs. academia, all of our biotech colleagues agreed that team meetings now make up a much larger…

Non-scientific ways to approach the “reproducibility crisis”

Reproducibility is in crisis; or at least that is how 90% of more than 1500 researchers responded to a Nature survey conducted a few months ago (1). The statistics out of the survey are shocking. 70% of researchers have failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments. The Nature editorial and the following special articles about reproducibility have brought back an old concern - can we trust scientific publications? The same concern was discussed in a workshop two years ago, held jointly by the NIH, Nature Publishing Group, and Science (2). Although the workshop triggered novel guidelines in grants and publications, the results from the Nature survey reveals that there is still “space for improvement.”

Last year, Science, published an article about reproducibility in psychological sciences (3). The “Reproducibility Project” recruited hundreds of scientists to perform 100 replication studies, and the results were shocking - fewer than half were repeated successfully. This raises mo…

Interview with Current President David Traver about the Upcoming 45th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society for Experimental Hematology (ISEH)

In advance of the upcoming 45th Annual ISEH Scientific Meeting, we spoke with current ISEH president David Traver, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California San Diego, about the highlights of the upcoming meeting in his current hometown and his thoughts on the society.

What is the focus of this year’s ISEH meeting? We have tried to maintain the excellent breadth in all major areas of hematopoiesis research, with cutting edge talks across each discipline.For example, we have a superb lineup of speakers in our Gene and Cell Therapy session, as well as a variety of thought leaders in our Leukemia and Developmental Hematopoiesis sessions.As always, we have also worked to highlight our best young scientists at the meeting. Are there any new formats/features that are not to be missed? Yes, speaking of our trainees, we have started a new Pre-meeting Workshop this year for 50 of our young scientists.It will feature posters and several short talks by students a…