An Interview with PLS

Feb 04 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Alright, new meme that was passed on by Ambivalent Academic. Her questions are below in bold, followed by my answers. Here are the rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me" AND leave your email address (or blog link) in the comment! I will interview the first three commenters to ask for it.
2. I will respond by emailing you (or commenting on your blog with) five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. (If you don't have a blog, I can post your answers here).
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

1 - You've alluded to the fact that you work with a non-standard model organism -- if it's not going to give the game away, why that particular organism? What can you do with it that is not possible in other organisms?

Hmmmm, this is going to be tough to explain without talking about the organisms. We work on two groups of organisms in my lab, both of which would be considered things that are off the beaten path of science. In the work that I do I am interested in fundamental processes that have broad importance, but investigate these question using non-model organisms because they give us the best chance to address the question, even if there are fewer tools to use. For instance, one group we work on is interesting because of a particular trait that has evolved many times in the lineage. I am interested in understanding what happens to the organism when this trait evolves, because it pops up in all sorts of different organisms and the process by which it comes about is unknown. The reason why we are using this particular group to examine the trait is because the species that possess it are closely related to those that don't, making comparisons easier. Model organisms have mostly been chosen because of either their significance to humans or because they are amenable to work with, but rarely because the organisms have something particularly odd about them that makes them exciting. I like to work the other way around, finding the odd balls that can answer question, then dealing with how to get the data I need.

2 - When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up (besides a scientist)?

Anything that involved the ocean. I wanted to be a any part of filming all of the nature shows I watched on a constant basis. If it involved spending time underwater, I was interested. I guess it's a good thing I never signed up to be a submarine pilot for the Navy, or something.

3 - What would you want to do/be NOW, if science wasn't an option?

That's easy. While I would love to be a chef, I think the hours would not fit well with the amount of time I like to spend with my family. My mother was a chef, which left my dad cooking dinner for several years from Tuesday to Saturday. It's no coincidence that we refer to those years as the "Atkins before it's time" years. My dad can grill... and only grill.
Since being a chef is out, I would instead indulge my love of brewing beer and work towards becoming a brewmaster at a small brewery. My wife and I have often talked about moving somewhere tropical and opening a brewpub. This mostly comes up on cold snowy days. I would have 5 standard beers (A kick-ass IPA as the headliner, an oatmeal stout, a red, some variation of a wheat beer and a pale ale for the jerks who came in to a brewery and asked for a Bud) and a rotating seasonal as a sixth. I would also carry a decent selection of bottles, but none of the typical domestic swill and nothing with the words "light", "ultra" or any variation on that theme.

4 - What's the weirdest/most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you as a grad student or post-doc?

I can't think of anything off hand, probably because it's been a long week already. I can tell you something embarrassing that happened to today, though. Hot off the press.
I recently ordered a rack for some special tubes that we use on a semi-regular basis. It's a simple rack with two levels, each with a a bunch of holes in it, so that the tube can go through one level and be supported by the next. When it came I put one of the tubes in and it would not go through the "top" hole. It took about three weeks to get the rack, so a series of profanities followed this discovery. The rep from the company was in today and I brought up the problem with the rack, which his company specifically sells for the tubes I use. As I was showing him how the tubes did not fit, I had an epiphany! When I turned the rack over the tube slide easily through the top hole and sat in the smaller, lower hole. Most lab equipment is not designed to work up-side-down, and the rack was no exception. At least I never sent it back, I guess, but now one more person in the world thinks I'm a dumbass. Sweet.

5 - What do you imagine your child(ren) will grow up to be?

Thinkers and innovators. I don't care what they (only one now, but perhaps more in the not so distant future) decide to do, as long as it is something where they are able to use their minds to accomplish their work and are not stuck doing some repetitive task while checking the clock to see how much longer they have until they can leave. I grew up to do something completely different than anyone in my family and I wouldn't be upset if my child(ren) do the same.

Thanks for the questions AA!

6 responses so far

  • Ambivalent Academic says:

    Great answers...I am so curious now about your preferred organisms. And I'm totally with you on the underwater obsession. I got my NAUI certification in college (where I could literally walk off the beach onto a great dive site), but now I live in a place where I'd have to go to huge expense just to get to the water. Kills me. Still have the gear hiding in the closet just waiting for a move to a better location. I've found that diving weights really piss off your friends who are helping you move apartments.LMAO at your embarrassing story. Just a few months ago, GrAdvisor was astonished at the innovation in Eppendorf tube racks. Some of them come with different-sized holes on opposite sides (somewhat like yours). You can put standard 1.5mL tubes in one side, OR you can flip it over and the holes fit the 0.5mL tubes. He was amazed! He kept going on and on about what a great idea it was to invent this thing! He just couldn't get over the simple genius of it. You're not alone in your tube-rack incomprehension.

  • DamnGoodTechnician says:

    This interview meme is fascinating. Pick me! Pick me!I'm all on board with the allure of the oceans & sea critters. From kindergarten through probably 7th grade, I was 10,000% certain that the only job I'd ever have was an orca trainer at Sea World. This plan was sadly ruinated by attending college in the middle of the country, at least a thousand miles from ocean or killer whales. [Sigh.] I contend that being a scientist who studies some species of conch that only lives off the coast of Turks & Caicos would be the best kind of scientist to be!I'll work in your brewery though - I have a lovely collection of nearly 400 labels from various beers across the world.

  • ScientistMother says:

    This interview meme, is making its way quickly. I have my answer up, too. Now in regards to the pale ale. As someone who has lived in the great white north, you should now that a pale ale is NOT NOT NOT like a bud. Sleemans?? Granville Island? Okanagan Springs, Treebrewing?? seriously dude.

  • DamnGoodTechnician says:

    That is utterly true, ScientistMother. But you can convince the FratDudez at the bar to try a pale ale, as it more closely matches the color of Bud than does, say, an Indian Brown Ale (which I just tried, from Dogfish Head, and was fantastic).

  • Ambivalent Academic says:

    BTW - Do you currently homebrew? I would love to give it a try but it seems like you need so much space, stuff, extra incubators/refridgerators....

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    AA - In my defense, the rack did LOOK like it was design to go the way I had it originally, but there was a pretty simple test to figure it out. I do still homebrew, but have to admit to being dormant since the move. I am trying to get back into it, but events have conspired against me. I would absolutely recommend it though. There are the financial arguments for homebrewing, but I just enjoy making my own recipes. It really doesn't take that much stuff to get going and you can buy a complete kit for under $100. Give it a try. SM - I am fully aware that a Pale Ale and a mass-produce Lager or totally different beasts, but as DGT said, it's a gateway beer. Once people realize that it is okay for their beer to have taste, you might convert a few.

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