Field of Science

An update!

No, not the annoying kind that secretly restarts your computer in the background because you just bought it and haven't gotten around to deactivating auto-update yet and told it to fuck off the last few times so it didn't pop up the window anymore because it was sad. Or the kind that Adobe's PDF reader mysteriously wants about four times a day. Just a very late bloggy kind.

Apologies for disappearing for a while there. Personal issues came up and didn't really feel like writing about science (or reading much about it for a while). Long story short, I'm may well be a failed scientist at this point (no grad school for me, yay), and the academic career is one of the few where once you fall off the track, it's practically impossible to get back on. And unlike in most other careers, the skills you acquire by that point are nontransferable anywhere else, meaning you're screwed, period. Add to that the worst economy since the Great Depression, and the party starts off with a bang. That said, I'll continue with my attempts to sneak past academia's fortifications under the cover of night, if no other reason than that banging my head against brick walls fucking arouses me.

Anyway, I'm getting back to blogging now. Should at least take advantage of the fact I still have a computer and internet; might be a bit harder to blog when unemployed and homeless ;-)

There are some exciting developments next month: one I can't tell you about yet as it's part of bigger news; the other is that I'll be going to a phycology-protistology meeting (PSA-ISoP) mid-July and will be officially blogging it! There's lots of awesome research going on in the area and I'm happy I'll be able to share some of it with you.

Microscopy Reddit Community - /r/microscopy
Every once in a while a stack of undeciphered micrographs appears before someone's conscience, and every once in a while a resolution of this issue is attempted by approaching yours truly. I'm still a novice to the realm of the small, and usually fail to identify creatures (or artefacts) in question, leaving behind a trail of disappointment and pristine befuddlement. Forwarding those images to friends and colleagues would be awkward, since those people have enough on their plate to begin with. In short, would be nice to have a centralised place where people could share images and others could voluntarily look them over and comment on them. Micro*scope/EOL is a nice image repository, but generally the images there are of good quality and are finished products; furthermore, I still don't know how to work the interface there despite having access privileges. What would be great is if people could host images wherever they like, and then link to them in a centralised place for discussion where anyone could participate. In other words, Reddit.

There already was a microscopy subreddit (a Reddit community), but it was largely inactive and abandoned. Anyway, I'm now a moderator there, and would like to develop it into a community where micrographs of all sorts can be shared and discussed, with emphasis on microbial organisms (but sliced up macrobes welcome too). Creating an account is really easy, as is submitting a link (just make sure it goes to /r/microscopy and not some other area of reddit). We need participants though, so if you have any neglected mystery images, please post them, and if you're in the mood to browse micrographs from time to time, feel free to stop by! Just keep in mind anyone can see the subreddit including the images, so careful with potentially publication-worthy data...

Hope to see you there!

Random link
There's a really awesome Russian underwater macrophotography blog I came across a while ago that you should all know about. The photos are stunning, mainly of pretty tiny inverts in the White Sea in northern Russia (and plenty of shots of Northern Lights and white nights and all that).


  1. :-( Bummer.Please do carry on blogging, expressing yourself, and being "obsessed with anything living"!! Not everyone can fit the system..... (some people make their own, more interesting, ones instead ;-) )

  2. Whatever obstacle you've run into, I hope you can blast past it and get on with an academic career (assuming it's still what you want). If not...well, science journalism needs more people like you who can capture & convey the excitement of ideas. Thanks for keeping the blog alive! :)

  3. Taking a year off is not the same as falling off the track!

    Many people take a year off between college and grad school. They travel, or volunteer, or work, try to get a start a repaying student loans while gaining some real-world experience. Grad schools are used to this, many even like it. No problem getting back in.

    In some areas of science (biotech, computers, materials science...), a very good way back into academia is to spend a few years working in the industry, where the pay is good. Then come back. Grad schools don't really care how long you've been out of academia, as long as you spent it doing something potentially useful.

    The key is to stay in science while not being in school. Find ways - grants, sponsors - to go to your society meetings to see and be seen. Read the literature at the same rate as ever. Blog about it at a furious pace. Stay engaged with the science, and nobody will be looking at the calendar when you apply for grad school again.

  4. I'm with blog on this. If you really belong in academia, leaving for a few years will make you a stronger candidate. I don't know that there's much of a protist industry you could work in (medical side I guess), but one benefit of working a McJob is how strongly it motivates you for something better.

  5. I hope that has nothing to do with your deviationist views on evolution ;-) Evolution, after all, is an extremely ideological issue and always was.

    Take the best of it. Though not on fast track for an academic advancement, it may allow you to stay on track to creative evolutionary thinking. It is your chance to leave the scholastic ivory towers and to step into real life. Good luck. And if you really needs a new job, probably I can ask someone to employ you or to help you to start your own business.

  6. Thank you for your support and advice, everyone, I really do appreciate it! Turns out, I am about to luck out tremendously and work as a lab tech for a year (while taking a couple courses and re-applying for grad school) in the very lab I was applying to do my grad work in, so I can keep doing science. Thus far, my entire scientific career (well, mere beginnings of one) is built upon nothing but sheer luck, and people strangely expecting things out of me. Anyway, this coming year will be quite the demanding one, as it's a rather poor practice to screw up second chances so I'll avoid that direction altogether. That said, I'll definitely still keep on blogging!

    @Paul N: Thank you for your offer; and no, luckily my deviationist evolutionary views (they ain't *that* crazy, are they?_) not only haven't hindered my academic life, but actually helped a lot, particularly with this lab tech job I'm getting. The views may be less popular than usual, but there's still quite a few of us who subscribe to the notion of prevalent non-adaptive evolution -- perhaps because we're right... ;p

  7. That's good news for all of us :-)


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