stupid move of the year

April 30, 2009 at 8:09 pm | | grad life

My wife’s coworker came back from a vacation in Mexico. Today this coworker was sick and sneezing … and still at work! My wife had to tell her coworker to go home.

If we get swine flu, I’m suing that numb-scull and my their employer. (I like over-reacting.)

extraordinary (artist’s) rendition

April 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm | | crazy figure contest, literature, single molecules


This artistic rendering depicts electrocatalytic reactions one event at a time by measuring the burst of fluorescence (peaks) that occurs as each product molecule is reduced on a carbon nanotube (gray line).

This awesome figure is from C&E News, depicting single molecule fluorescence signals. I suppose that the “sun” in the background is the imaging laser. What are the stars, though? Dust? Well, at least they’re honest about the purity of the buffer.


April 28, 2009 at 8:46 am | | literature, science community

Endnotes are the way to go in a scientific paper. Footnotes might work for a book, but they’re distracting and hard to locate quickly in an article. So cut it out, JOC.

The only thing worse than footnotes is startnotes: when all the references are listed at the beginning of the article. How does that make any sense? It really makes the paper look silly:



Is Optics Express just trying to be contrarian?

That paper by Ober is good, though.

first x-ray laser

April 25, 2009 at 12:32 pm | | news

The first x-ray laser went on-line last week at SLAC. I just saw a talk with the lasing data. Cool!

Snuggie Scientific

April 24, 2009 at 8:53 am | | hardware, stupid technology, wild web

Want to not die while working in the lab?  Lab coats are okay, but they don’t show off your awesome ass.  And the second you need to reach for something, you catch on fire.  But now there’s the Snuggie Scientific, from the makers of Snuggie.  It’s a blanket and a PPE.

Now you can titrate without feeling cold.  Run a column and feel slightly less cold.  Check the New York Times and feel slightly less cold.  Make coffee.  Drink coffee, all without ever having to feel the icy pinch of 72 degrees.

Made from space age materials that are totally not soluble in every single liquid you handle, the Snuggie Scientific lets you work alone without ever being alone.  And that’s why I wear one too.



April 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm | | everyday science, nerd

I had a nightmare that our controls were failing.

some light reading

April 17, 2009 at 7:31 am | | everyday science, grad life, literature, nerd, science community

What do you read…


…while on the toilet?

epernicus: the linkedin for scientist

April 15, 2009 at 7:58 am | | science community, wild web

I’ve been waiting for a LinkedIn for scientists. I’ve finally found one: Epernicus. It’s professional, clean, easy, and standardized. Most importantly, Epernicus recognizes that the scientific community already has a concrete network, which is defined by professor-student, coauthor, and colleague relationships. The site has a “geneology” feature and automatically connects you to your coauthors.

Epernicus profiles are focused on scientific network, research skills and background, and papers. This is what the LinkedIn for scientist should look like. (It’s not perfect: I don’t think there’s enough emphasis on finding and sharing articles. See my idea below.)

Of course, there are many versions of online networks for scientist. Here is a sampling of the ones I’ve found: Labmeeting, Nature Network, Research Gate, Sciorbis, Mendeley, Scientific Commons, Scilink, CiteULike, ACS Member Network, 2Collab, Graduate Junction, and the list goes on. None of these I’ve tested really hit the nail on the head. They all have their own cool features, but they either neglect some essential aspect or are just too clunky to use like I want to use it (i.e. like I use LinkedIn or Facebook).

For instance, I use CiteULike to organize interesting articles, and the site does a good job of linking you to similar readers. But the networking is limited on the site. If CiteULike and Epernicus connected, they could make an awesome site! Just imagine: when your former labmate or coauthor reads a paper, it shows up in a list of papers you might want to read. Articles could be weighted by many factors based on your reading habits, interests, and network, giving you a prioritized list of relevant papers. Data about articles and reading habits could be mined from CiteULike, while geneology and network information are inherent in Epernicus. The way we read papers is bound to change dramatically someday, and Epernicus + CiteULike should tackle that paradigm shift today.

Anyway, if you’re on Epernicus, feel free to connect with me here.


April 13, 2009 at 10:03 am | | grad life, stipends

scmf-thumbI’ve started the Stanford Chemistry Microloan Fund.

With fees increasing and stipends not growing, it seems that now is a perfect time to add a safety net.

The concept is simple: contribute a small amount to the fund, then you have the opportunity to borrow interest-free. The idea is to help each other when we need a little cash between paychecks. When Stanford decides to raise fees by an order of magnitude. When we have to pay for conferences and airfare with our own credit cards, and hope we get reimbursed before our next payment is due. When living paycheck-to-paycheck gets a little nerve-racking.

Currently, SCMF is open to all graduate students in the Stanford Department of Chemistry, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis. By keeping contributions and loans within the immediate community, I hope to maintain trust and transparency. (Of course, if someone outside the community wishes to donate to the fund, I’d be more than happy to take their donation.)

I’ll let you all know how it goes. So far, we have a handful of contributors, and a couple hundred in the “bank.” With several more small contributions, and some large ones from some angel investors (e.g. grad students married to someone with a real job), we should have a fund.

If it works out, I’ll suggest you start something similar at your own school.

just a minor fee increase…

April 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm | | grad life, stipends

I received this email today:

We are writing to inform you that beginning in the fall of 2009, Stanford University will implement a Campus Health Service Fee of $167 per quarter.  The fee will cover many services provided by Vaden Health Center, including primary care medical visits, psychological evaluation and short-term therapy at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and access to health and wellness programs.

The mandatory fee will apply to all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled on the Stanford campus, including visiting researchers and students participating in high school summer programs that result in course credit at Stanford.

Wha? An increase in fees of $167 per quarter?!? Right now, I’m paying $30 in fees. Now it will be almost $200. That’s nearly an order-of-magnitude increase!

There are 17,833 students at Stanford, so that means an increase in well over $10 million in yearly revenue from fees. Holy shit!

So let me get this straight. In these hard economic times, the best idea is to squeeze millions of dollars out of the poorest people on campus? Without warning and in the middle of their schooling?

Bullshit. There should be a boycott.

deep-tissue imaging spam?

April 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm | | nerd, wild web

I assumed that this was spam regarding two-photon or other deep-tissue imaging:


Nope. It’s non-science spam.

creepy sciencespam

April 3, 2009 at 8:26 am | | science community, wild web

I got a spammy email from one of those science networking sites:

Hello ,

my name is Mirian , it is my pleasure to write you after viewing your profile here in this site which really interests me to communicate with you. it will be better if you can comfirm this message by writing me back via my email ( redacted )so that we can have a comfortable communication . i have something to share with you . i will be waiting to hear from you. have a blessed day.————————————————————from Mirian

I just found it creepy.

New “Not-Science” Website

April 1, 2009 at 9:18 am | | news, wild web

I’m pleased to announce the newest addition to the community, a new political website called – a News “Haven” for Political “Works”.  I’ve decided to move away from WordPress and try my hand at some real website designing, and I do think I’ve done a good job.  I hope you like it!

i’m outa here

April 1, 2009 at 7:53 am | | grad life

I’ve decided to master out. The job opportunities right now are just too good to be stuck in grad school.

I told my PI my plan already. He said something along the lines of, “Well, you still have probably two years of work before you can leave with even a masters.” But I’m not listening to him anymore. I’m outa here.

In my almost 5 years in grad school, I’ve seen several of my colleagues master out. At the time, I thought they were fools—they carried themselves as prey, not like a predator, like me—but now I’ve seen the light.

Sayonara, suckers.

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