Archive for: January, 2013

I'm #scio13 bound - any last minute protips?

Jan 29 2013 Published by under Potpourri

Alright folks, I'm off to #scio13 tomorrow morning. This is my first time, so please be gentle. Looking forward to attending what I'm sure will amount to some great sessions. Some that I've got my eye on are "Broadening the participation of diverse populations in online science" moderated by Alberto Roca & Danielle Lee, "Changing the public face of science" moderated by Allie Wilkinson & Katie Pratt, and  "Blogging for the long haul" moderated by fellow Scientopian Scicurious & Zen Faulkes. And that's just the first day!

I'm also pretty excited to meet many of y'all IRL. From what I've heard everyone calls each other by their Twitter handles, so that'll take some getting use to (pronunciation hint: mine is a really bad pun on amazing). it turns out, I've only got room for one gray tee shirt in my luggage. Can't frakkin' decide if I wanna rep PLOS or Battlestar Galactica. Decisions, decisions...



Any last minute #scio protips for this n00b? Please feel free to share.


10 responses so far

Sabotaging the “Warning Beacons” to Prevent Immune Cells from Attacking the Body

Jan 25 2013 Published by under Science

I'm over at Amasian Science today blogging about how proteins that bacteria use to slip past our defenses might be exploited to control the behavior of immune cells...with a little shout out to LoTR.

Human immune cells are remarkably adaptable. These foot soldiers of the immune system can be harvested from the body, retrained to recognize and fight different diseases, and then redeployed in the body. This process, known as adoptive cell transfer, has incredible potential for treating cancer or chronic infections–particularly in individuals whose immune systems have been weakened by diseases like AIDS. There is, however, a big problem with this technique. Immune cells that have been harvested and engineered to fight specific diseases can often go haywire and turn their weapons on host cells. As a result, healthy cells and tissues in the body that aren’t supposed to be attacked by immune cells get caught up in the crossfire and end up as casualties. As a solution, biologists want to keep these immune cells in line by reprogramming their behavior using the very tools that bacteria employ to slip past our immune system. Read more

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Will I see more "historic first" inaugurations in my life?

Jan 21 2013 Published by under Asian Americanism

Today, President Obama took the oath of office and gave the inaugural address of his 2nd term, perhaps poignantly on Martin Luther King day. I still remember the disbelief I felt four years ago when Obama was elected president--to be honest, I never thought I'd see a black president. Now just four years later, President Obama's second, and also historic, inauguration has given me the audacity to wonder if I will see any other historic "firsts" in my life*.

First woman president? Hillary Clinton seems poised to have the best chance, but now I wonder if she'll run anymore given her age and health. First non-Christian president? Seems unlikely anytime soon, although some will go to great lengths to argue that we currently already have one. A LGBT president is even more doubtful, but some historians speculate that that title already belongs to President James Buchanan. How about Latino/Hispanic? Surely, one of these Latino American leaders must have presidential ambitions.

And of course, how could I forget a first Asian American president? Does Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal have a shot? So far, the closest we've come to sniffing an Asian American presidency is probably the late Senator Daniel Inouye who at the time of his passing was President Pro Tempore of the US Senate, and therefore third in line of presidential succession.

I wonder if America, after Obama's two terms, would be ready for some more history-making so soon. Or will the US suffer from some sort of "firsts"-fatigue syndrome and slip into another era of white dude presidents?

*This also had the unintended and depressing effect of viewing my life in terms of how many presidential election cycles I have left.

13 responses so far

Is there a bamboo ceiling for Asians in science?

Jan 18 2013 Published by under Asian Americanism, Science

First let me say that I've never liked the term "bamboo ceiling." It always sounded a little too culturally forced* to me. And in terms of imagery, it flat out sucks. Glass ceiling? At least with glass you walk away with the impression that you can shatter through it. But bamboo? That shit is hard. Like indestructible hard. Doesn't quite inspire much confidence in breaking through it now does it?

Earlier this month in Nature Jobs, Lilian Gomory Wu and Wei Jing argue that the path to leadership roles in science is impeded for Asians in the US:

In academia, just 42% of Asian men are tenured, compared with 58% of white men, 49% of black men and 50% of Hispanic men. Just 21% of Asian women in academia are tenured, the lowest proportion for any ethnicity or gender. They are also least likely to be promoted to full professor.

Similar numbers exist for industry and the federal workforce they report, and this graph was included in the tl;dr blog post:

The take home: Asians were attaining leadership positions (like PI-ships) at a lower clip than other ethnicities (although, I wonder at what rate do Asians apply or seek out managerial positions, comparatively speaking). Wu and Jing identify several possible reasons for this disparity that mainly derive from the "model minority" stereotype:

hardworking and patient, family oriented, good at maths and science and having a strong work ethic, but also humble, non-confrontational and lacking the passion to be charismatic leaders.

Many of these have been used to explain the relative absence of Asians in company boardrooms, CEOs, and the like, so it's not totally unreasonable for these explanations to apply to the sciences as well. Take, for example, how Eastern ideas of leadership--where Asians are more likely to let their actions do the talking over...well talking--are lost in translation. This can give the impression that Asians are passive or indifferent. Another possible reason is the language barrier, which can be prohibitive in writing successful grants and papers. These issues, of course, are biased towards our foreign-born, transplanted colleagues, of which there are many in science.

In 2009, Asians — defined as people from the Far East, southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent — made up 78% of doctoral recipients with temporary visas who were planning to work in the United States.

Looking at 2008 demographic numbers from the NSF, there were 2,038,000 Asians employed as scientists and engineers: 58.9% were naturalized US citizens while 21.3% were non-US citizens. For comparison, of Black or Hispanic scientists and engineers, only 3.3% and 7.4% were non-US citizens, respectively. That being said, and particularly concerning to me, Wu and Jing also point to the perception that Asians are "forever foreign." Meaning that no matter how acculturated Asians are or become, these standards might still be unfairly applied.

As for solutions, they suggest re-evaluating cultural differences in leadership and communication skills--which basically sounds like cultural sensitivity training to me. Yet, they also put the onus on Asians to "seek training in communication, assertiveness and leadership skills." Soooo...which is it?

And what does it say about the fact that under the Comments section of the blog post it reads: "There are currently no comments"? Now, I wasn't exactly expecting my Asian colleagues to tear it up in the comments (hell, I don't know if anyone comments on Nature blog posts). It's quite possible that neither the article nor the blog post isn't reaching an Asian audience--and without social sharing/altmetrics-like data available, how am I to gauge dissemination? But that no one has voiced any opinion at all certainly doesn't help silence any of the Asian stereotypes.


Ceiling With Mud and Bamboo

Is this my view when I look up?

*Someone recently suggested to me that the phrase be changed to "glass noodle ceiling."

Related Reading:

How committed is NIH to addressing its race problem? Hint: kinda sorta



9 responses so far

Long johns are my new best friend

Jan 18 2013 Published by under Potpourri

Yo seriously, I've let my damned New England pride stand in the way of me being warm for far too long--it's -5 degrees C out there today! Long johns are fantastic and perfectly acceptable. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Like I said, fantastic and perfectly acceptable.

Up next: Fleece-lined pants.

6 responses so far

Indonesia wants to teach more religion in schools at the expense of science.

Jan 15 2013 Published by under Potpourri

In response to an increase in religiously-motivated violence, the Indonesian government wants to devote more time to teaching religion in it's elementary the expense of science.

Millions of children in Indonesian elementary schools may no longer have separate science classes starting in June, the beginning of their next school year, if the government approves a curriculum overhaul that would merge science and social studies with other classes so more time can be devoted to religious education.

The argument here being that with more religious instruction comes increased morality.

First, as Asia's fastest growing economy, science education might kinda-sorta be important to Indonesia's future success. You know, the type of success that might alleviate some of the conditions that lead to violence in the first place. Second, according to education experts quoted in the article, the overall education system in Indonesia needs an overhaul.

As it is in Indonesia, religion "is taught to students according to their own faiths, meaning that Muslim students are instructed in Islam, while Christian students study Christianity in separate classes." Do they receive inter-faith education as well? And what would more religious education look like? Would it be the type of education that stresses religious tolerance or the "we're right and those guys next door are wrong" variety?


3 responses so far

A New Year. A New Blog.

Jan 11 2013 Published by under Potpourri

Hello and a Belated Happy New Year, Scientopia Readers!

Looks like I’ve been given keys to my very own Scientopia blog! If you take a deep breath, you might even catch a whiff of that new blog smell. You'll have to excuse the sparse look around these parts as I’m still in the market for a banner, blogroll, some rims, hydraulics...

Low-riders - Fairfax, Va - 2011 - 4

For those of you who don’t know me, I tweet here, blog about science here and, more recently, about public health here. In addition to science-y topics, I’ll be writing about being a late-stage PhD student and Asian-Americanism. Sometimes these subjects will commingle.

Needless to say, I'm excited to be sharing this space with all of the great bloggers here at Scientopia and hope that you'll come along for the ride (quasi-NSFW, at least not with the volume bumping)...

7 responses so far