Archive for: June, 2015

Things that Frost My Shorts (minor)

Jun 15 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

My shorts, they are frosted, when fuckers reviewing for NIH don't upload their reviews on time. The difference that online reviewing makes is incredible. The whole process, especially facetime is faster. Less waste on reading reviews, and more time actually discussing content. [although this varies with study section]. But  importantly you see the reviews in advance, and are not busy trying to assess the differences in real time. When I disagree with the other reviewers, I want to understand what they thought, what they perceived as different from me. Was I too hard, too easy? Did I miss something?

But when the fuckers can't get the reviews uploaded by the deadline, there is a big fat empty space on the page.

This is particularly important, as I leave tomorrow for vacation. I need to respond before I leave. Leave on vacation! Holiday! Sorta.

This is a trip I'm making with a friend of my mother's (really) - Elizabeth is half-way in age between me and my Mom in age. We went to the Galapagos together, and it was incredible.  We travel well together. We are going to Eastern Europe. It will be part good and part hard:


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Getting Proposals into NIH

Jun 15 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

In the Olden Dayes, when I submitted a proposal, I would celebrate. Fancy dinner with the then current partner. Come in late the next day. And, no, I did not assume it would be funded. It may sound shocking, but even back then, people who were not BSDs often had to revise and resubmit to get funded.

Which reminds me of what might be my all time favorite Comradde Physioproffe post:

Anyway, as I aged, the celebrations became less and less important. Now, its ok, gotta date with a cycling class (not even a nice ride in the country, although that is much easier here at almost-MRU in the middle of lower-fucking-nowhere). Actually, the now, it's ok... was for the first one this deadline. After the second one, it was, meh, I have a huge amount of Other Things that didn't get done whilst grant writing. But I think I am not quite so exhausted as I was in the past. It is nice to get at least a little more efficient.

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How to write a letter of support for a junior colleague

Jun 11 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

This goes back to the poor sailor caught between Scylla & Charybdis.

To support another proposal, for which I need only write a letter, I have written:

I am tremendously excited about the potential for us to develop our collaboration on the neurophysiology of bunny hopping. We have discussed this project at length, and I am impressed with the design in your proposal. 

 To facilitate our collaboration, I invite you to visit my laboratory in the next year. Your proposal to collect the pilot data necessary for our collaborative project is strong.

Let me dissect a few things I think important:

 the potential for us to develop our collaboration

The point here is to make it clear this is a joint project. I see this as an "us, rather than "me help you with your project". The funding agency needs to hear that I am committed to this.

We have discussed this project at length, ....

Again, a bunch of "we"s in the opening para.

But, moving on

impressed with the design in your proposal. 

and, in the second paragraph:

Your proposal here to collect the pilot data necessary for our collaborative project is strong.

It is now time and important to show that the collaborator is doing the heavy lifting.  They are the PI, not me. I did not write this document, the colleague did. Make that clear.

Later on in the letter I wrote:

I am excited at the potential of expanding my studies in bunny hopping to include your expertise in defining more anatomically correct feet.

Actually, I didn't write this, my colleague did in a draft. But its important to say "I am getting something out of this", which emphasizes my commitment to the project.

The rest of the letter is the usual "I have all the facilities necessary to study bunny hopping in situ". All paired appendages crossed....


ps - the grant we wrote was superb and is at my grants office, and on track for an early submission to NIH. Besides that I had fun writing together. Its wonderful to be pulled up a bit by someone who is clearly gonna be better than me.

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Friends are My Lifeblood

Jun 05 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I invited a friend (>20 yrs) to come give at talk at almost-MRU. She is one of the wisest and funniest and most marvelous people in the universe. She makes me more funny. Anyway, I am reminded that, indeed, friends are lifeblood. They give you strength, and peace, and perspective. They listen and think you are wise and gorgeous (in the Australian sense of gorgeous which is about being a person, not the outside).

Anyway, friend is Latina (and no, she is not Dr. Isis, there *are* more than 2 Latina women in science). And we took time to go through childhood pains, which are not worth repeating here. But it was so good for me. Her too.  Especially since another of my grants got triaged. Because "another grant got triaged" seems to be the punchline to most of my stories these days.


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You can't jive with the almighty

Jun 03 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

This morning, sweetie & I were having a discussion about religion and its often pernicious nature. As is often the case in our discussions, jazz came up, and jazz musicians and jazz musicians and religion. Duke Ellington, quite likely a sinner by many religious people's standards, found religion at the end of his life. One of our favorite quotes is his, above.

Here's some early morning Duke for you:

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How to do it right (boomer edition)

Jun 02 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

In my new biosketch, I acknowledge the impact of a junior colleague. Its one the sections on how I have transformed the world. Dr. Gonna-be & I have co-authored a couple of papers - she's lead or last on all. We've done a number of invited (at meetings) talks together, about this topic. Its been an important collaboration to me (and she would, she has, say to her). Even though I left MRU (where she is, I had worked hard to get her hired in a department that never did real searches, the chair just hired who he wanted) (yes, this would be the chair from hell).

This work, in collaboration with and largely driven by Dr. Gonna-be-A-Big-Honking-Deal-If-She-Already-Isn't, explored the hot-to-trot-so-to-speak basis of bunny hopping in the context of new&shiney neuroscience. The experimental work was done in Dr. Gonna-be's lab; my contributions were experimental design, statistical analysis and placing the results in the context of new&shiney. However, my interactions with Dr. Gonna-be have strongly influenced my perception of the role new&shiney neuroscience in bunny hopping.


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How do I know when they are ready to leave?

Jun 02 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I had actually thought this might be kinda obvious. But I got a heartfelt request, so here goes. I wrote:

It is a sign of maturity to let go of people when it is best for them. It is a sign of maturity to know when it is best for them.

And someone said: but how do I know, really know? Of course, letting them go is not taking up scissors and cutting a line. Its getting a postdoc to apply for jobs. Its helping them sort through the offers they will (of course) get. Its directing them to Doc Becca's aggregator page.

First off, you are not immature if you Don't Know when to let go. Its knowing and not doing that is a problem. How to know?

Signs a postdoc is ready to go:

1. They have the ovaries to question you, but aren't doing it reflexively. Or, they never questioned in the beginning and now they do. Or, they always questioned you and confronted you, and now they have stopped.

2. Their ideas are ones you wished you had. They understand what is going on in the lab and are thinking of new directions. This is a moment of danger, because the temptation to keep them and their ideas is large.

3. They take the lead in journal club, when they didn't before. OR... they let others talk, when, in the past, they were  always the first to talk.

4. They start catching little mistakes you (of course you do) make. And, they are gracious about it. This is also a danger point - their value as a colleague has just doubled.

5. You don't have to oversee their mentoring of younger trainees. You realize that the way they are working with younger trainees is something you admire.

These are diagnostic signs. They are not Truth and Beauty. They do not all apply to any or everyone. They are not absolutely necessary, and may even not be sufficient. But they can be guides.

The hard part of knowing when to let go of a trainee who does not have a ticking clock (the way a UG does) is the realization that they are not you. They will not follow the path you did, even if that is possible. A good mentor recognizes this. We often make type 1 errors (letting someone go when they're not ready), and that can be bad, but is seldom fatal for either you or the trainee. But type 2 errors, poignant as ever (keeping them beyond the time to let them go), can be devastating.


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