Saturday, October 30, 2010

Museum of Science and Industry: Kate's Month at the Museum

This month Kate McGroarty is spending a month at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago and blogging about it. She's free to roam the museum and sleep where she likes. Last night, she slept in the U-505 submarine and woke up next to a torpedo. How cool!

I had a chance to meet Kate today (photo courtesy of my wife). She's super nice and thrilled to learn about science!

You can read Kate's blog at MSI's Month at the Museum site and follow her Twitter feed @msikate.

If you are visiting MSI, stop by, say "Hi", snap a picture and tell her Dr. Dave sent you!

Dr. Dave

Friday, October 29, 2010

God Supports Stem Cell Research: The Power of Flawed Logic

Disclaimer: If you have don't have a sense of humor, then please stop reading.

Logically flawed arguments tend to find traction in a society that's too lazy to think for themselves. Throughout the course of history, politicians and religious leaders have used this unfortunate truth to drive their personal agendas. Does the term "death panel" ring a bell?

Sometimes science, logic and knowledge take a backseat when masses of misinformed mediocre minds mount protests. So rather than fighting this battle head-on, why not fight fire with fire and engage in guerrilla campaign of flawed logic to change minds?

On that note, here's a mix of science and religion to promote the "Religious Right's" support stem cell research:

FACT:Bone marrow contains stem cells.
Since Eve was born from Adam's rib, god must have manipulated Adam's stem cells to create Eve.
Therefore, god supports stem cell research.

Now that's logic a certain former Alaskan governor can understand!

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science

Monday, October 25, 2010

Graduate School Advice: Picking a professor? Know thyself first!

On a recent jaunt down memory lane, I reflected on how I selected my graduate program. Sure, factors like cost of living, proximity to loved ones, and of course, department reputation are very important and played a role in my decision making, but the most important factor was a potential professor's management style.

Management style? Really?
Yes, really. I had spent a few years between undergrad and grad school working in an infectious diseases/vaccine design lab where I learned a thing or two about the "real world." The most important lesson was that I hate being micro-managed or motivated by fear.

I spent 10% of my time working for a micro-manager supervisor. He treated everyone as if they were idiots, unless you had a PhD or MD. I did not like being told what to do, especially when I knew things were wrong. I rebelled and landed in hot water on several occasions.

Fortunately, I spent 90% of my time working with another supervisor who respected my intelligence. He would set goals and leave the problem solving (the fun part) to me, and always made himself available to discuss strategy. I flourished and was able to solve some of the toughest challenges in the lab.

What's the take-home message? Know yourself. Do you like to have the freedom to create and learn? Do you prefer to be told what to do? Figure it out now and find a professor who fits the bill.

Visiting Grad Programs
When interviewing with potential professors and their graduate students, I inquired about management styles. After visiting a few grad programs, I found a lab that did the kind of research I was interested in and where the students were truly managers of their own projects and destiny.

All in all, it was a great choice. I was truly free to take my project in any direction I wanted. I made mistakes and discoveries, and learned a lot about chemistry along the way. Imagine that!

Dr. Dave.

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do you work too much? I hope you are in shape! -- Study links heart disease and fitness to hours worked

In graduate school, my girlfriend (now wife) and I made yearly trips to mainland Europe for vacation. After visiting France, Spain and Italy, I was drawn to the people and their attitudes toward work, health, and life. In my eyes, it seems Europeans prioritize family and health over work, whereas work takes higher billing in America. It's my own generalization, so take from it what you will.

There's nothing wrong with working hard, but when should we draw the line? Is a 40 hour workweek to long? Too short?

Are you really productive at the end of a long work day? How about after working 60 hours in a week? I knew plenty of people who "worked" long hours but were not productive. What a waste of time! My benchmark is productivity, not hours worked.

Working too long for an extended period of time is harmful, at least that's what I believe. Now there's scientific data that supports what I've thought all along. Researchers in Denmark published an article in the journal Heart titled "Long work hours and physical fitness: 30-year risk of ischaemic heart disease and all-cause mortality among middle-aged Caucasian men."

You can read the abstract (below), but it basically says that men working long hours who have low physical fitness are at greater risk of dying from heart disease.

Here's a question: if you work long hours, do you even have time to be physically fit?

Background No previous long-term studies have examined if workers with low physical fitness have an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality due to long work hours. The aim of this study was to test this hypothesis. Methods The study comprised 30-year follow-up of a cohort of 5249 gainfully employed men aged 40-59 years in the Copenhagen Male Study. 274 men with cardiovascular disease were excluded from the follow-up. Physical fitness (maximal oxygen consumption, Vo(2)max) was estimated using the Astrand bicycle ergometer test, and number of work hours was obtained from questionnaire items; 4943 men were eligible for the incidence study. Results 587 men (11.9%) died because of ischaemic heart disease (IHD). Cox analyses adjusted for age, blood pressure, smoking, alcohol, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, physical work demands, and social class, showed that working more than 45 h/week was associated with an increased risk of IHD mortality in the least fit (Vo(2)max range 15-26; HR 2.28, 95% CI 1.10 to 4.73), but not intermediate (Vo(2)max range 27-38; HR 0.94, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.51) and most fit men (Vo(2)max range 39-78; HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.41 to 2.02) referencing men working less than 40 h/week. Conclusions: The findings indicate that men with low physical fitness are at increased risk for IHD mortality from working long hours. Men working long hours should be physically fit.

-Dr. Dave

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science