Bringing The Blog Back to Life - halfway through 2013….
Whoah! You take a break from blogging in January and suddenly it’s mid-July and you’re in your basement furiously devouring the end of a 1lb bag of radishes you only opened an hour ago. What happened? Time moves so quickly
Apologies to those who have been checking the site daily for an update only to be repeatedly let down and discouraged by my inattentiveness (who am I kidding, nobody reads this!). I’ve been busy as always with a variety of different projects and thought to write a dense summary of everything I’ve done over the past 6 months in order to catch up. With new scientific adventures on the horizon, it would be nice to have this grisly beast up and running again.
The lion’s share of my time is always dedicated to my PhD. Between experiments, writing papers, having meetings, analyzing data, going to conferences, getting animal protocols, etc. - things are quite busy. I’m 3 1/2 years into my studies here at UBC now and have begun to architect a plan to finish my doctorate. Ideally this will involve me finishing my experiments sometime late next spring and hopefully defend in the fall of 2014. Besides these day-to-day PhD struggles (which I won’t bore you with details of), this is what I’ve been up to!
- Action Canada: My incredible year as an Action Canada fellow ended the first of week of February with a spectacular bang (other conferences summarized here, here and here). It truly was one of the most unique experiences of my life and I am privileged to have been able to take part in this program. My fellow Fellows are a magic group of awe-inspiring change wizards and I’m so happy I am able to call them colleagues, and friends (they are really neat). A couple things we got up to: In early February we published our AC policy report titled "Future Tense: Adapting Canada’s Education System for the 21st Century" which led to a few media engagements for some of my Task Force members (I had my first radio debut on CBC Montreal Daybreak!) and our attendance at the Canadians for 21st Century Learning annual summit to present this report (it was a hit). We also got to chat briefly with one of the keynote speakers, the right honourable Paul Martin! My 2012/13 cohort has went back to the (semi) regular lives (I miss them all) but the 2013/14 Action Canada cohort was recently announced. I’m looking forward to meeting all of them soon!
My Action Canada Task Force (Team Awesome!) and the Right Honourable Paul Martin
- Op. Ed. written during my AC Fellowship: All AC fellows are coached by some great writers over the year to write an Op. Ed. for publication in the mainstream media. I managed to have mine, about the role of science & public education in forming evidence-based policy, published in slightly different versions in both the Vancouver Sun and the Huffington Post. It was also picked up on Elsevier Connect, a science news site. I got a lot of great feedback on this piece and hope to write more for the mainstream media (and on this topic!) in the near future.
- Published a hypothesis article in F1000Research - Last summer I wrote a hypothesis that is very much related to my thesis and submitted it this spring for publication in a cool new journal called F1000Research. The journal is open-access (anyone can read its articles, this is not standard for academic journals sadly!) and uses “post-publication peer review” where all papers submitted are published on the site immediately and the review process is completely transparent and not anonymous (again not standard). This is the 7th manuscript I’ve been included as an author on and over the next will will be focusing on finishing off a couple 1st author data papers that are necessary to finishing my PhD.
- Organized and hosted our third StemCellTalks symposia at the TELUS World of Science here in Vancouver (we are now running in 6 cities in Canada). The day-long event involved around 130 grade 11/12 students, 35 graduate student volunteers and 10 faculty/expert speakers….it was great. I had an excellent team to work with (as is the case each year) and it was a learning experience to expand our capacity up to 130 kids (it has been 60-70 in 2010 & 2012). One of our participants wrote about her experience at the event. A lot of effort is involved as we expand this initiative across the country and grow as an organization and I’m happy to be involved at such a crucial time.
Some of the distinguished speakers (Kelly McNagny, Fabio Rossi, Tillie Hackett & Bruce McManus) at StemCellTalks-Vancouver 2013
- Accepted to CIHR Drug Safety and Effectiveness Cross-Disciplinary Training Program: 1-year fellowship I was accepted to that involves some online lectures, group work and a couple of trips to Hamilton where the program is based. There are 20 trainees from all different backgrounds (e.g. public health, epidemiology, clinical, basic science) so it’s cool to be able to interact with people with different perspectives (always into this). The program also has somewhat of a health policy tilt to it, something I’m increasingly interested in. I don’t exactly do drug safety or effectiveness research, but I applied with some questions about regulation of stem cell therapies (a lot of discussion going on about if they should be regulated in a similar manner as pharmaceuticals. Complex topic!)
- Selected as RBC Emerging Scholar for Spur Vancouver Festival:
One of twenty “Emerging Scholars” (having completed this, does this mean I’ve emerged?) selected for a local festival focused on politics, arts and ideas. I was made aware of this by my AC Colleague Vass Bednar who was involved in the Toronto iteration of the event. Being selected meant we were able to attend a number of lectures about ideas surrounding change as well as the chance to interact with the other 19 scholars who were from all different backgrounds. It was interesting (and also involved liberal amounts of free wine!).
- Co-chair of Outreach for the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) and Panel Submission for CSPC2013 conference: Following Action Canada, all jazzed up on policy I was, and I joined the organizing committee (as Co-chair of Outreach) for the CSPC2013 conference which will be held in Toronto in November. It’s the largest science policy event in Canada and has been an excellent way to branch out and learn about this broad and diverse domain. I also put together a panel session on the interplay between public opinion, law and policy for emerging biotechnology for this conference with my wonderful friends/colleagues Julia Belluz, Zubin Master & Ubaka Ogbogu and are waiting to hear if we will be running this session at the conference this fall. Fingers crossed!
- Won UBC’s Edward JC Hossie Leadership Award: I was nominated for this awesome award by Let’s Talk Science coordinators Natasha Holmes and Allison McDonald and with some help from Su-Hui Chu (who got married in April - photos of the adventure here!) to boil my CV down to 2-pages - and I won! The award stems from an endowment meant to support “highlighted undergraduate or graduate students who have demonstrated leadership through volunteerism, community service and/or campus activities.” The award also came with a generous scholarship so I went shopping and bought a whole new wardrobe (my first time doing this since reaching adulthood….).
UBC President Stephen Toope and I at the Edward JC Hossie Award Ceremony
- Communication Training for Scientists: Back in March I helped organize a “Soft Skills” workshop for about 70 trainees (PhD students and post-docs) that was held in Toronto after a stem cell meeting there. It was awesome! I was in charge (along with the ever effervescent John Rennie & Lisa Willemse) of the half of the workshop focused on communication (the other half focused on commercialization) and the feedback we got was very positive. My colleague Paul Krzyzanowski wrote up a good summary for the Signals Blog. Afterwards, I wrote a blog about the importance of using Twitter as a scientist which got a lot of uptake through a number of different channels (most notably Twitter, duhhh). After this I’ve been asked to run some social media training workshops (the first was last week). Suddenly I’ve been branded as a social media expert, which is a new thing for me.
- StemCellShorts Animation Project and our 2nd SCN Public Outreach Award: Last March my (small) animation company (Infoshots - with my partner Mike Long) won a Public Outreach Award from the Stem Cell Network to create a series of three animated shorts explaining basic stem cell concepts. These finished up this spring (will be launching them in the fall - they’re awesome!!) and we successfully applied for another award (with a co-sponsorship model this time) to produce an additional five videos. We hope to have some of these ready for the Till and McCulloch Meeting in Banff in October as there will be a short period of the conference allotted to screen the videos for the first time. Excited to see this move forward!
- A couple of final fun things: I also wrote/recorded a podcast for my fellow Banff Science Communication alumni Scott Unger's “Experimental" series on some recent beer science for St. Patricks day, wrote a Q&A piece for the Canadian Science Writers Association blog with Claudia Cornwall about her recent book "Catching Cancer" (a great read!) and was also involved in the 6th instalment of the AMAZING Playground.is concert series (get a whole bunch of strangers, tons of beer & an awesome local band then make a music video!). You can see the video itself and a special behind the scenes video by clicking on the linked text. Oh - and I also got diagnosed with MONO at some point during all of this as well (which it turns out wasn’t that difficult to shake).
THAT’S ALL FOR NOW! I’ve got an exciting SCIENCE TRIP lined up for August that I’ll write about next…..