The Top 10 Scientific Music Videos You Must Watch

 

Sally Burn

Think scientists don’t have a sense of humor? Or passable musical talent? Think again. Scientists have these qualities in abundance, as evidenced by the horde of science-themed song parodies on the internet. And what activity are scientists even better at than making such videos? Slacking off from the bench to watch the videos, of course! So put down that Gilson, stop even pretending that you’re reading that paper; crank up the volume on the microscope computer and prepare to get some science earworms stuck in your head with Scizzle’s Science Parody Top Ten!

 

10) The PCR song by Bio-Rad

It’s an oldie but a goldie. Bio-Rad released this ditty to promote their thermocyclers, but it serves as an informative musical primer (pun intended) on PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction for those fortunate enough to never have done one). It also asks the important PCR-solvable question “who’s your daddy?” and features that classic scientist dance move: hoisting a Bio-Rad S1000 on your shoulder like a 1980s boombox. “To all the scientists out there doing PCR, Bio-Rad salutes you”.

 

9) TCA (Krebs) Cycle Rap by Wilson Lam

In at number nine is a parody of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop, reappropriated to inform the public about the Krebs Cycle. Personally, the Krebs Cycle brings me out in a cold sweat and flings me back through the mists of time to hideous biochemistry tests. But if you have one of said tests coming up then checking out this video could be more than worthwhile.

 

8) The Lab Song (Bruno Mars Parody) by the Cohenford lab

Three words: whistling lab monkeys.

 

7) Cell Respiration by Mr Hsu

This video is the drunken uncle of the science parody party. Once you start watching it you can’t stop; not because of high production values or exceptional musical talent, just because it is so completely uninhibited. Mr Hsu is a high school science teacher who obviously cares A LOT about getting his students hooked on biology and passing their tests. Casting aside all shreds of dignity, and cramming in more words than each line should allow, Mr Hsu unleashes a five minute PowerPoint-based summary of cellular respiration, sung vaguely to the tune of Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling. It shouldn’t work but it does. Mr Hsu, I salute you.

 

6) GTCA SsoFast by Bio-Rad

Another offering from Bio-Rad, this time paying homage to DNA (“these letters also spell DAN”) with help from the Village People’s YMCA. The video features extravagant pipetting technique and a simple dance routine guaranteed to make your PCRs go SsoFast.

 

 

5) Most Beautiful Girl in the Lab (Flight of the Conchords Parody)

Our number five entry is a meta-parody, and a controversial one at that. Imitating a song by the Kiwi kings of parody, Flight of the Conchords, the video is a love paean to the Most Beautiful Girl in the Lab. It highlights a novel use for conical tubes and is vaguely sinister if you are not familiar with the original comedy number (Most Beautiful Girl in the Room). Some viewers were offended, interpreting it is a setback to female equality in the lab and the original has now been removed, replaced by an apology. Make your own mind up with our link.

 

4) NASA Johnson Style (Gangnam Style Parody)

We now take a brief detour from biology-based parodies to bring you a video set in the aeronautical research world at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It’s glossy, sexy, and catchy as hell. While we’re on a space note, special credit should also be given to Commander Chris Hadfield’s cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, filmed onboard the International Space Station.

 

3) Some Budding Yeast I Used to Grow (Gotye parody) by Nathaniel Krefman

This adorable video won Biotechniques journal’s 2013 Lab Grammies. Parodying Gotye’s ubiquitous hit, Somebody That I Used to Know, the song also provides a comprehensive analysis of the funding struggles faced by those who use budding yeast as a model organism. And it has a Materials & Methods section at the end.

 

 

2) Get Data by UCSD Neuro Program

Sweeping into second place is a newcomer to the science parody scene: a slick take on Daft Punk’s Get Lucky about staying “up all night to get data”. This five minute slice of lab humor chronicles the herculean struggle to get last minute data and deftly rhymes “data” with “poster”.

 

1)  Bad Project by the Zheng lab

Our winner is the outstanding, high camp parody of Lady Gaga’s hit Bad Romance by the Zheng lab, created for their departmental retreat at Baylor College of Medicine. The lyrics are both ingenious and a painfully accurate description of what happens when you inherit the dreaded turgid corpse of a Bad Project. Add to this the freestyle microtome technique and biohazard bag couture, and it’s a clear champion. We love it, and over four million YouTube users agree. All together now: “Blot, blot, Western baby”.

5 Things You Should Do Before Applying to Graduate School

 

Brian Clark

So it’s application season again and you’ve decided to go to graduate school. Great! Now what?

The process of finding a graduate program that fits you is very important to your success and happiness. This goes far beyond GPA, GRE scores and US News & World Report rankings. The process can seem overwhelming to some but with a little planning and engagement, it’s pretty simple.

Below are the top five things to consider when applying to graduate school:

 

Why?

Take a step back and think about why you want to go to graduate school. Is it the right time for you to dedicate your life to an advanced degree? It should not serve simply as a bridge to a better job. Really think about your goals while in graduate school. What do you want to accomplish while earning the degree? How will that experience impact your career afterwards? If you are planning to attend a research-based STEM program, research experience is often required.

 

Be Proactive

The timeline for finding and applying to graduate school should start at least 2-3 months before application deadlines. Think beyond the time to fill out the application itself. You’ll likely have to find the programs you want to apply to, take the GRE (or other standardized exams), ask your references to write letters of recommendation (minimally two weeks in advance of a deadline), compose your statements of purpose (I advise writing one for each school you apply to) and have your transcripts sent to your programs of choice. If you are proactive these checklist items will be easy to complete.

 

Fit!

Fit is the most important thing to remember. Finding the best program for YOU is crucial. This goes way beyond rankings. No two programs are alike. Each has its own culture, faculty, curriculum, research focus, students, setting, etc. Prioritize your academic goals and what is important to you before starting your search. If you know exactly the area you want to study, find programs that are publishing in that area. If you’re not exactly sure, find an interdisciplinary program where you will learn a variety of fields and techniques. Geographic location and program culture are also important elements to fit.

 

Research

Once you find some programs that may fit (using Gradschoolmatch.com, of course) begin digging in to see which programs are right for you. Look up the faculty, funding, publication history, stipend/scholarship information, how competitive you are for admission and the list of programs will begin to slim down. Finding a good fit and putting in a little time researching will eliminate the need for a long list of “back up” schools.

 

Communicate

The most underutilized resource in this whole process is the programs themselves. Always keep in mind that graduate programs need students that will excel in their program. Beyond your academic success, motivation, commitment to the program and fit are common criteria in admissions decisions.  Communicate with them. Ask them questions. Email the director of the program (sometimes called the Director of Graduate Studies or DGS) or faculty you are interested in working with. Build relationships with these individuals. If you’re a good fit, you may end up spending the next few years working with them!

 

What else? If you’ve been through the graduate school application process we’d love to hear your story. If you’re just starting the process and need advice or have questions, email Brian Clark, President & Co-Founder of Gradschoolmatch.com.

 

Gradschoolmatch is a growing community that brings prospective graduate students together with graduate program directors to connect and find the best fits! Best of all, it’s free for prospective students to join!

 

Lab NIGHTMARES!

Sally Burn

Labs are scary places. We know this from the movies, which paint a pretty vivid picture of what can go down in a lab: the creation of a zombie-inducing rage virus, the rising up of a bioengineered beasty, the lone scientist working late into the night and meeting a grisly demise… Granted, some real-life scientists might argue that the scariest thing is how poorly movie labs are tethered in reality (hello favorite new Tumblr), but they are just being humorless curmudgeons because, as the movies tell us, that is generally what scientists are.

But the truth is labs ARE scary places. Think about it, you are surrounded by an arsenal of dangerous chemicals and equipment. You may be there alone late at night, accompanied only by the rhythmic tick-tick-tick of the incubator, the hum of the freezers, and… wait… what’s that? It’s getting closer… an eerie creaking… closer still… and then it’s usually just the night janitor. But the mind plays tricks when you’re under the stress of publish or perish. What if all your cell lines die? What if your data drive goes up in flames? These are real lab horrors.

So now, in the spirit of Halloween, we proudly present Scizzle’s compendium of Lab Nightmares. I polled leading scientists about their experiences (this data set is known as “Facebook friends”). All names have been changed to protect identity and/or save embarrassment. Also, readers who have recently eaten may wish to avoid the final story.

 

Losing your data or samples…

This is a lab nightmare that would reduce me to a cold sweat during the last months of my PhD. It’s easy to stop data loss – just back up. But what if the backup goes on fire (as happened last week to a friend in the final throes of her PhD)? Well, that’s fine because obviously you backed it up to a third drive which nestles cozily in your backpack at all times. But hang on. What if you get hit by a truck? Like a really massive truck, so big it vaporizes your hard disk on impact? Now a sane human would obviously point out that if the impact was that major you’re probably dead anyway. NON-SCIENTIST FOOL! This does not matter. Only data matters! I’m in the last month of my PhD! I’ve eaten only microwave meals for six weeks!! I know not what sleep is.

Luckily, our stressed out data worries usually turn out to be unfounded. But sometimes it does all go wrong. Pity the poor grad student who one day found Continue reading “Lab NIGHTMARES!”

Taking the Reigns – Part II

Neeley Remmers

In the previous post we discussed why knowing your type is so important, in this post we’ll discuss how  knowing your personality traits and that of your mentor help improve your mentorship? Let me go back to the workshop I attended this summer. For each personality pair, we the participants divided into the categories we fell into, and as we went through each pairing we went through a series of exercises that helped us teach each other why we act the way we do and how we can bridge the communication gap between the dividing personality traits. I found out that I am an ENTP or I’m an extroverted, intuitive, thinking perceiver. As an extrovert, I learned that introverts prefer to communicate via email, want us extroverts to come to meetings more prepared, and simply to shut-up and listen every now and then. Now, think about what personality trait your mentor might have. Perhaps you, like me, are extroverted while your mentor is introverted. The best way to begin communication with your mentor to discuss your project would be to first email them to set up an appointment (that is if you don’t have regularly scheduled individual meetings with your mentor, in which case you should be active in frequently setting up meetings with them on a weekly or every-other week basis). In this email, give them an idea of what you want to discuss by sending them either an outline or experimental plan that you want to pursue for your project. At the meeting, print off a copy of your experimental plan, data, etc so you can stay on topic and have an effective meeting. This same approach works wonderfully if your mentor is extroverted as well because it gives him/her direction to prevent him/her from going off on random tangents and getting completely off subject. Now say that you are a sensor (in which statistics will be an ideal area for you!) whereas your mentor is intuitive. You likely get frustrated when talking with your mentor because they tend to look at the bigger picture and leave out the little steps and details that help you get to the big picture. This is where you will need to use your communication skills to draw them back to remember you need help drawing out the experiments that will ultimately allow you to answer the big picture question. In my opinion, the next personality pair thinking versus feeling can have a major effect on your relationship with your mentor, especially if you two are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Studies presented to us at the MBTI workshop I attended showed an overwhelming majority of scientists are thinkers, and if you are a feeler you can begin to see where this may cause some major problems between you and your mentor. If this is the case, my best advice to you is to remember that if at any point in your interactions it seems as if your mentor is personally attacking you, remember that he/she is not. They treat everyone in the lab the same way (if they are a thinker) and that any harsh judgment IS NOT a reflection on you as a person, but instead they are criticizing your work. Yes, they recognize you have worked hard to get the data you have, but just keep in mind that sometimes the data simply doesn’t fall in line with your hypothesis and projects fail. After all, about 90% of science is about failure and you learn more from failing than you do from succeeding. A tough fact to swallow, but perhaps that is why so many scientists are thinkers or have adapted to become thinkers.  Finally, if your mentor is a hard-core perceiver meaning they leave everything to the last minute, the best advice I can give you is to remember that your mentor will edit your fellowship in time for you to submit it even though he/she may get it back to you with one hour to spare. It may be good policy to start telling them deadlines are a few days earlier than they actually are so you don’t have to be up all night putting the finishing touches on a proposal and hitting the submission button with 59 seconds before the call closes.

I have given you a lot to think about, but if you can derive anything from this post I hope it is this: be more active in your mentorship, you have more control in your relationship with your mentor than you may think. Be forthcoming with your expectations of your mentor, actively set up regular meetings if your mentor doesn’t already hold that policy, and clear communication on both your parts is key to getting everything you need from your mentor to help you become a quality scientist. Mentoring, like any relationship, is a two-way street and its effectiveness is dependent on both parties involved.

Most Scientific Papers Contain Irreproducible Results. Can We Fix It?

Alisa Moskaleva

It’s the start of a new academic year. Every year at this time my department retreats to some scenic spot, welcomes new PhD students and post-docs, and shares our scientific achievements. This year, one of our faculty, Dr. Daria Mochly-Rosen, gave a talk entitled “How to Improve Robustness of Academic Data.” Its contents were an unpleasant shock and a call to action that I wanted to share with the audience of Scizzle.

Here is the unpleasant shock. Dr. Mochly-Rosen cited a Nature paper from March 2012, in which scientists at Amgen looking for new cancer drugs repeated experiments from 53 publications that reported cancer-related discoveries in cell lines or animal models. In many cases, they contacted the principal investigators and repeated the experiments with their advice and reagents and sometimes even in their laboratories. They could reproduce the critical, title-making result in only 6 publications, or just 11% of their sample. Yet, 21 of the 53 articles were published in supposedly high-quality journals with an impact factor of more than 20, and articles with irreproducible data were cited between 3 and 1909 times. The follow-up articles would expand on aspects of the irreproducible observation, legitimizing it without re-testing it. Amgen scientists noted that although many modern drugs were made possible by biomedical research, it’s been hard for drug companies to find scientific results they can bank on. To them, the scientific literature is not self-correcting and is not reliable to a disturbing extent.

But even if you don’t care about drug companies and their profit margins, 11% or even 30% or 50% reproducibility of scientific findings is bad. Even a single irreproducible result, especially in a high-impact journal, can misdirect the efforts of dozens of researchers. Reproducibility should be as close to 100% as possible, so that scientists do not waste time and money following up erroneous findings, and so that they can honestly say to the general tax-paying public that scientific results can be trusted.

Why are so few results reproducible? Setting aside deliberate scientific misconduct, perhaps the ultimate cause is pressure on researchers from funding agencies to produce many, preferably high-impact papers on tight schedules and budgets. What Amgen scientists observed were experiments that were performed only once, data sets that were cherry-picked to look nice, reagents that were used even when there was published evidence that they were not appropriate, positive and negative controls that were missing or not shown, and investigators that were not blinded to which of their samples was the control and which was the experiment. Again, it cannot be stressed enough that irreproducible results came from well-meaning, sloppy scientists, not nefarious, data-fudging ones.

This absence of malice is good news because it should be easier to persuade scientists to publish more reproducible results, once they realize the magnitude of the problem. As solutions go, Nature has published “Reproducibility: Six red flags for suspect work”  and then two more red flags to make it easier to find trustworthy scientific papers. I want to share Dr. Mochly-Rosen’s advice: publish every important detail of your method and every control, either in the main text or in that wonderful Internet-age invention, the Supplementary Materials. And, of course, do your science carefully. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where no one has to waste time and money troubleshooting something from a cryptic Methods section that recursively refers to a Previous, Researcher et al? And wouldn’t it be equally wonderful to never use an antibody, or siRNA, or chemical inhibitor published to do one particular thing, only to find out that it has many side effects? I dare you to imagine what it would take to build a world where scientific results are reproducible, as they should be.

 

5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Grad School Experience

Welcome to grad school, you are on your way to adding 3 magical letters at the end of your name. As we’d like y’all to start well-informed and be prepared, our brilliant contributors share their wisdom and best advice on making the most our of your grad school (and beyond) experience!

That’s our top 5:

  1. Run while you still can! Just kidding….
  2. Learn new things and learn all the time and it will all come together at the end, we promise!
  3. Take a careful look of the PI personality and lab’s dynamics when choosing a lab.
  4. Keep it balanced, as in stay healthy!
  5. Diversify your experience at the bench and beyond it.

Now read on: Continue reading “5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Grad School Experience”

Job Searching "Outside the Bench"

Kelly Jamieson Thomas

When I set the date for my defense as a PhD student at NYU School of Medicine, I was initially overwhelmed with the sense of sheer joy. The light at the end of the tunnel after 5 years of studying, researching, and writing papers was shining upon me. As the day approached and I completed the final draft of my thesis, I began to focus more on the next natural question at hand, “For what type of job was I searching and how was I going to find it?”

Through the course of my PhD, as was the case with many other students I knew, I had thought more than once about leaving academia for a job in industry or elsewhere. In addition, I was nervous that I would become pigeon-holed in one specific type of research when, and if, I chose a Continue reading “Job Searching "Outside the Bench"”

Through The Looking Glass

Neeley Remmers

Let me begin this blog entry by first apologizing to those of you who had hoped to maybe learn another snippet of cancer biology or read a summary of a couple interesting scientific papers. Instead, this week’s entry is going to be more a reflection of my graduate career. Forewarning, I think my brain is still recovering from the intense past few weeks so I can only hope that my thoughts seem somewhat connected.

I have to confess, this decision is totally influenced by the fact that I just defended my thesis two days ago and I had the opportunity to interact with students still in their first couple of years of graduate school while attending a conference last weekend. The conversation I had with these students got me thinking about the roller-coaster ride that is graduate school. We all agreed that Continue reading “Through The Looking Glass”