A former fellow graduate student

 who became a science communicator! At a time when understanding science is more vital than ever.

This week, Megan Litwhiler responds to the #MySciComm questions! Megan is a scientist turned science communicator. After finishing her PhD in bird ecology, and a brief stint at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, Megan moved on to her current role as a Research Communications Associate at the Museum of Science in Boston. When she’s not science communicating, she’s hanging […]

via #MySciComm: Megan Litwhiler — ESA SciComm Section:


World Rat Day

Did you know April 4th is World Rat Day?


Johnny and Timmy are friendly, loyal, intelligent, and cute. Witness:

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BuzzFeed likes rats too. I just learned rats “spend about 76 percent of daylight hours sleeping.” Who knew? And can you handle this Instagram star dumbo rat cuteness? They only live 2-3 years, but rats can be such highly trainable, great pets. Last but not least, here are some cute rat photos to consider. I do like it when rats stalk cats because rats are way more social than cats. ^_^



Excerpts that resounded from the post “Goodbye academia, I get a life.

“Every scientist goes on to do science for a single reason: the love of science. Science doesn’t make you rich, it doesn’t make you famous (can you tell me the last 5 Nobel Prizes for chemistry without looking on Wikipedia? I can’t either) and doesn’t make you comfortable. The only sane reason for starting to do science is the dispassionate love of science itself.”

I’ve also read how this is a scam in the way that the system pits scientists against one another, often for less than stellar work conditions.

“The first is going for the sky: doing great science in a first-class place, make a great curriculum and look for a tenured position in the end. The problem is that a lot of clever people want to go for the sky, and there is much more people who want the sky compared to the available positions…

Top level science requires also an absolutely mind-boggling determination and, overall, confidence in yourself. To properly do science you must be absolutely sure that, whatever you have in mind, you will do it, no matter what, and that you’re doing it right, to the point of almost self-delusion… Combined with the above, this means working 24/7, basically leaving behind everything in your life, without any doubt on your skills and abilities and most importantly on your project, while fencing off a competition of equally tough, confident and skilled guys.”

Statistics say this is true. The fact that there is an overabundance of academics has been seen in engineering, by the National Science Foundation, in the UKhumanitiesglobally, etc. This has resulted in more efforts to counsel PhDs in alternate career paths, even going so far as to actively promote leaving academia. (Although I’ve never even considered science to be like class warfare.) Life sciences, and particularly my field, biology, does not have the best ratio of jobs to graduates.

“There is a second option, which is bare survival. You go from postdoc to postdoc, perhaps end up as a long-term researcher somewhere in some tiny university or irrelevant research center and basically spend your time with a low pay, working on boring projects, crippled by lack of funding and without any hope of a reasonable career (because the career path is taken over by the hawks above described), nor any hope of stability in your life.”

This is the more likely reality of the two options he presents. Neither is something that most 9-5 employees tend to face upon entering the workforce. Even highly qualified individuals will be put off by the ‘rat race’ cycle of grants-teaching-research that never ends.

I like to think that people who leave academia to do something else are almost invariably much happier than before. I’ve seen enough psychological detriment (and physical and emotional health along with that) in graduate school to believe it isn’t impossible to be happier elsewhere. Just observations. Another great article about the conflict between being a scientist and doing good science, and being a scientist vs. academic. And for some humor, BuzzFeed provides.


16 personalities

I tested as an INFJ personality (“The Advocate”), so I wanted to highlight some elaborate descriptions that really caught my notice:

“INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all.”

“… though soft-spoken, they have very strong opinions and will fight tirelessly for an idea they believe in. They are decisive and strong-willed, but will rarely use that energy for personal gain – INFJs will act with creativity, imagination, conviction and sensitivity not to create advantage, but to create balance. Egalitarianism and karma are very attractive ideas to INFJs, and they tend to believe that nothing would help the world so much as using love and compassion to soften the hearts of tyrants.”

“INFJs find it easy to make connections with others, and have a talent for warm, sensitive language, speaking in human terms, rather than with pure logic and fact. It makes sense that their friends and colleagues will come to think of them as quiet Extroverted types…”

“To INFJs, the world is a place full of inequity – but it doesn’t have to be. No other personality type is better suited to create a movement to right a wrong, no matter how big or small.”

“Creative – Combining a vivid imagination with a strong sense of compassion, INFJs use their creativity to resolve not technical challenges, but human ones. People with the INFJ personality type enjoy finding the perfect solution for someone they care about…”

“Determined and Passionate – When INFJs come to believe that something is important, they pursue that goal with a conviction and energy that can catch even their friends and loved ones off guard. INFJs will rock the boat if they have to…”

“Altruistic – These strengths are used for good. INFJs have strong beliefs and take the actions that they do not because they are trying to advance themselves, but because they are trying to advance an idea that they truly believe will make the world a better place.”

“INFJs seek out people who share their passions, interests and ideologies, people with whom they can explore philosophies and subjects that they believe are truly meaningful.”

“INFJs need to know that what they are doing has meaning, helps people, leads to personal growth and, all the while, is in line with their values, principles and beliefs.”

“As colleagues, INFJs are likely to become quite popular, being seen as positive, eloquent and capable friends, identifying others’ motives and defusing conflicts and tension before anyone else even senses a disturbance. INFJs are likely to prioritize harmony and cooperation over ruthless efficiency, encouraging a good, hard working atmosphere and helping others when needed.”

My family and friends have described me as intelligent/smart, logical, thoughtful/pensive, inquisitive, adaptable, easygoing/mellow, independent, outdoorsy, eccentric, warm/kind, cute, fun, modest, frank/honest, social (not really), talkative (no), extroverted (no no no).

Take the test hereinfj


Seven Things to Reboot my Life

Inspired by Wil Wheaton’s post, I thought to make my own list. Lists are good. So.

Get outside
Read more (journal articles).
Write more (manuscripts for journals).
Get better sleep. (7 to 9 hours a night)
Eat more organic food.
Sit less. (Read: try yoga)

Get Outside
I have a desk job, like so many individuals. That means in a typical work week, I’m only outdoors on my commute or for groceries. And it’s not a bad commute, four km on a bike through rural and wooded country lanes. But it’s not even 20 minutes each way, and not intensive cardio. The only other time I’m outside is if my boyfriend takes me birding. Solution: do more birding. Or bike faster. Or read outdoors if it’s not too cold.

Read More
Since getting a free tablet with my WiFi contract this past year and installing the Kindle app on it, I have read over a hundred (not necessarily quality) books. That means historical / fiction / fantasy. I need to push through more journal articles, which I keep mostly updated via the very helpful Google Scholar Alerts, so that’s something. But the ideal is reading, critiquing, and incorporating their findings into my own research understanding. And writing. Leading to my next goal…

Write More
I acquired a Make It Happen! journal (after choosing it over the Start Where You Are and Start Now!: The Creativity Journal) to encourage my focus and productivity and thoughts-to-words transmission. I haven’t even cracked it open yet. Too much expectation? Find a moment to just think about time management and prioritizing my short-term goals. I make lists in my lab notebook, but they need to be more manageable.

Hard water is a big issue for me about living in Germany. Situated right next to the Bodensee, more broadly known as Lake Constance, you would think we would benefit from fresh water. Alas! That means I invested in a BRITA Fill&Go water bottle, to somewhat filter the mineral-rich tap water I drink (for those who don’t know bottled water is a crime). It’s sitting on my desk now. Yay.

Get better sleep.
My workday alarm is set for 7:45am. That means I should go to bed 10:45 PM or 12:15 AM or 1:45 AM, plus 14 minutes to fall asleep. I never follow the sleep schedule. I have even tried setting an evening alarm, but eventually disobey that. Anyone have ideas?

Eat more organic.
I like buying organic (here called “Bio”), but organic food spoils so rapidly. Cooking for one and not enough menu planning means I tend to avoid organic because I don’t want to face its rotting state. And more meal planning to make sure I only get what I need and let nothing go to waste is an even greater time investment. Posting recipes on this site should help me organize my favorite recipes to make, at least. I pin too much, too, and their search algorithm could be improved (e.g. identifying duplicates), but it’s so fast and thought-free.

That’s all, folks!



Freshwater aquarium fish

One of my Golden Molly females (Poecilia sphenops, this variety nicknamed the “24 karat”) looked very pregnant, so I put her in a separate breeder box. This morning I woke up and found out she gave birth to this bundle of joy!

There are about 28 of them, only a day old but all healthy — and they eat a lot! They will look like the parents when they grow up into that beautiful golden yellow. I’m glad I had a hunch that night and saved those babies (thinking before I went to bed that the mother would give birth overnight). I was very happy to save their lives, even though they are so tiny.

~ Kai-ling

Fancy Rat & Mouse Day

Thanks to Simon’s Cat, I found out the 12th of November is Fancy Rat & Mouse Day! In honor of that, I will introduce the two little brothers I adopted in early June this year: Timothy and Jonathan (named after the characters in the book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH).

Male fancy rats are supposed to be stinkier, less trainable, but bigger couch potatoes/lapdogs than females. Mine are neutered, so they’re less aggressive and stinky with a softer coat. They’re both black Berkshire-patterned (colored top, white belly), which always means it’s challenging to tell them apart. The only difference: The bald tip of the tail is longer on Johnny (he was larger when I adopted them). Personality-wise, Timmy is always curious, more affectionate, and the escape artist. Johnny is a slave to his stomach, will try things only after Timmy, and is an overall homebody. This balances out so that I can’t say which one is the more trainable of the two. But “rats are one of the easiest animals to train due to their adaptability, intelligence, and focus.”

Incidentally, I’m the year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac, therefore that makes me intelligent, persuasive, sociable, charming, industrious, meticulous, and tenacious, according to Wikipedia.

~ Jessica