23 March, 2010

Pondering #1

At this point in the cycle I am going to assume that grad school is not going to work out this year, and strangely making this assumption makes me feel much better about the whole deal. There are some programs from which I've not yet heard back, but even so, they may actually not even be the best fit for me anyhow. I'm already so busy doing so many awesome things that this doesn't really set me back, it just gives me more time to better up my badness.

The more I've pondered the luster of a purely academic career, the duller its enticing sheen has become. I'm not certain that I want to spend the rest of my life trapped in an office thinking thinking writing writing chasing funds and collaborators and students. There's nothing wrong with that career, it's the endgame for many scientists and most are very effective at commanding some incredible science from their desks, but I'm just no longer sure that I want it. As the sheen of academia has faded, entrepreneurship has become more enticing. I know it would involve a lot of the same office-bound paper chasing that I mention above, but that somehow doesn't make it less appealing. I think the primary appeal of it may be that the organization I build would be a product of my own devotion and charm more than bound by the strictures of bureaucracy and tenure requirements. I am terrified of complacent mediocrity (terrified I may someday see it in myself), and I'd much rather fail spectacularly than piddle along because there's a lot more to learn in failing than in middling.

However, right now I'm just a Bachelor of Science, not even a Master thereof, so I know that founding a start-up now would be substantially more complex than doing so later after I've attained more letters behind my name and the experience (wisdom?) that goes with them*. So grad school remains as a goal, I'm just content at the moment to polish my street cred and scientific credentials to help me get in next year rather than be disappointed by this year's rejection.

*This may not stop me anyhow right now.

18 March, 2010

Video Toaster

Audio quality is bad due to the room being boomy and the microphones on my camera being tiny. There ought to be Official Footage showing up soon that will likely sound much better.

I recommend listening to this on big speaker system with the EQ spiked for mids for maximum comprehensibility.

04 March, 2010

Post Ignite Talk

As I mentioned somewhere down below, I was selected to give an Ignite talk about informational processing in biological systems. The talk happened tonight with an audience of about 500 people, and I completely deviated from my prepared notes and winged it very successfully (the drawing together of informational threads when I improvised was better than my notes). I even convinced my brother and sister to do an interpretive dance while I talked to illustrate the transmission of information from DNA to RNA to protein, even though one of them got dropped by the other in the middle of their big 2-person cartwheel (they made up their routine).

After the presentation, a bunch of people whose names I no longer remember shook my hand and told me that I'd given a great talk that was very interesting and many people shared their stories with me of how molecular biology has randomly affected their own lives. There were also a lot of people who knew about the Central Dogma, but had always viewed it as something to be memorized and had never considered biochemical pathways to be a form of useful, active information. Nonetheless, what people very specifically pointed out about my talk were my slides. I painted about half my slides by hand with soluble ink and watercolor. Here are many of them:


Protein Folding.

Sonic hedgehog. It helps you tell your head from your ass.

Sonic Hedgehog talking to his buddies Smoothened and Patched.

Concentration gradient of Sonic Hedgehog helps Embryonic Pony determine anterior-posterior patterning.

Transcription. I chose to leave out semi-conservative replication to keep my talk focused.

Proteins have distinct functional motifs, like this one's tongue.

Other presentations ranged from mastodon hunting technology to home funerals to spaghetti bolognese and were overall quite excellent. A program of the evening can be found here, and I will post video of the event once my brother returns my camera. I would certainly do one of these again, and have even submitted a proposal to give a TEDxUM talk in April. I'm thinking Immunology in 15min.

02 March, 2010

Bridge Cheese!

In the past couple days, my previous optimisms regarding getting into an awesome PhD program in Immunology with Computational Biology opportunities have turned to a rather danker pessimism. I rarely allow myself to be pessimistic, because when I do I start wanting to do rather illogical things to distract myself from it.

Right now I'm thinking it'd be lovely to move to Norway, somewhere up in Trollheim, and become a goatherder. Goats are nice, they'll eat pretty much anything you throw at them, and they even make milk and cheese (I believe you have to shake them to obtain the latter, though). The primary advantage of doing this in Norway instead of the Ozarks would be that I'd have no neighbors, and those that might be over the next mountain would be far too busy eating fish and enjoying socialized health care and education to care about me genetically engineering the goats.

I'd need 2 phenotypes, 1 with hooky fur and the other with loopy fur, but if I was successful, I'd have VELCRO GOATS!!! Not only could I harvest their wool for useful uses, but they've be velcro uses.

Now, what sort of uses would a velcro goat possibly have, you ask?

Well, for structural elements, of course. Specifically a bridge. A bridge over a fjord. Made out of velco goats. Sure, it'd be a loud bridge with all of the bleating and whatnot, and goats' eyes are damn creepy, but still, it would be a bridge made of goats over a fjord! Not only would it be biodegradable and able to consume the next Trollheimstadt's municipal recycling, but it would output bridge cheese!!!


Like this. Note that goats would be occasionally rotated to ensure an even distribution of goat happiness as I suspect the goats on the bottom of the cantilever are likely to be somewhat less happy and as such may not make quite the same quality of cheese.