academia aunty blogging awesomeness BC birthdays blog Blogathon Blogathon 2009 Blogathon Vancouver 2009 book learnin' Canada Canucks coffee doing good events family food friends funny geek Geekery hockey Longest Game Longest Game For CF NaBloPoMo Nerdery people who are cool enough to travel with me photos politics rampant consumerism rampant narcissism random rants running science shoes shout outs sports stuff on the internets tech stuff thesis travel travels Vancouver wtf
So you know that running study1 I was telling you about yesterday? They need more men to join. The study is meant to look at if sex is a risk factor for running injuries, so they need to have both males and females and right now they have more females. So boys, if you are interested in running and interested in science, this group is chalk full of fit ladies! Just sayin’.
If you are interested, you can tweet the study manager at @justdoitYVR or email email@example.com.
- Also, at the running group this morning, we met the Principal Investigator for the study, Jack Taunton. He’s a sports med doctor who was the Chief Medical Officer for the 2010 Olympics and founded both the Sun Run and the Vancouver International Marathon, among other achievements. So, you know, a total slacker. [↩]
Specifically, this study is comparing males and females going through a training program for a 10 km race with respect to injuries1. Basically, there is a 12 week training plan that we follow, including a mandatory2 group run on Sunday mornings and 3 other runs per week that we do on our own3,4. And then we answer a bunch of questionnaires about our running and any pain we experience. And then at the end we run in a 10 km race that they invented for this study. I’ve always wanted to join a running group and never found one that quite worked for me5, so this way I get to be part of a running group *and* contribute to science. Plus, I have a tendency to be very unmotivated to run after I do a half marathon – I usually think, “Oh, I just need a little rest time to recovery” and then the habit is broken and 6 months go by and I haven’t gone out for a run. As you know, I’m running the Fall Classic half marathon next weekend, so being in this study will be just the motivation I need to get running in the days and weeks after the race.
The training officially starts tomorrow, but I got my first taste of the study two Sundays ago when I went out to the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at UBC for my baseline measurements. This included measurements of my legs and feet and tests for balance, flexibility, and strength.
In the balance test, you had to first balance on a metal plate that measured the fluctuations as you balanced on one foot. And then you had do the same thing, but first you had to jump over a barrier and land on one foot and they measured the fluctuations as you tried to re-gain your balance. Have you ever tried jumping on one foot, over a barrier, landing and actually being balanced? It’s as hard as it sounds!
The picture doesn’t really give you a good sense of it, but that yellow barrier is a good 6 inches high. You had to stand on the wooden part, jump over the yellow thing and land on the metal plate:
Here are my test results, though since I’m not a physiotherapist, I have no idea what they mean:
The other thing they did at the baseline assessment was a 3D scan of your foot. This study is sponsored by Nike6 and apparently this 3D scanning technology was “shipped all the way from Nike headquarters”!
To do the 3D scan, they put little stickers on different parts of your foot and then you stood with your foot in a box that shot lasers7 at you:
And it looked like this:
But then we had to re-do that one because the computer said no. But in the end we got lovely 3D scans of my feet:
I’m not sure exactly what they are doing with all these measurements, as they specifically told us that they are only taking these measurements at baseline, but not later. The rest of the study is just questionnaires (including the pain scale I mentioned8 ). I presume they are comparing the males to the females at baseline to see where we are all starting from, but I guess they aren’t interested in balance, flexibility, strength or the shape of our 3D feet as outcome measures.
At any rate, I’m looking forward to having a structured training program to follow and meeting some new running friends.
Let the running begin!
- At least, that’s what they told us. But I get the impression that what they consider an “injury” is somewhat different from what I would call an “injury” – as the baseline assessment involved rating your level of pain on a pain scale, but I don’t think of just run-of-the-mill pain as an “injury” per se. I’d consider it more just being the result of using my body and/or aging. [↩]
- Well, it was called “mandatory” when we signed up for the study, but has since been downgraded to “strongly recommended”, probably at least in part because it spans the holiday season and some of the participants will be traveling over the holidays and thus won’t be able to attend the Sunday runs during that time. [↩]
- Tuesday nights are track training and there’s an option to do this run out at UBC, but frankly given my 2 nights a week where I have to drive to Point Grey for classes, the last thing I want to do is drive out there when I don’t have to [↩]
- Given that we are in the part of the year where the sun sets so damn early (i.e., it’s pitch black out by the time I get home from work at 5pm), I think I’m going to have to get over my distaste for treadmills and do my running during the week on the treadmill at the gym at work. I figure if I go into work a bit early, do my run and then shower and get ready at the gym. I remember when I did a similar thing for my 26 hot yoga sessions in 30 days and I found that as long as I was organized enough with my bag packed and ready to go, I actually really like the schedule. I feel super energized and much more productive during the day when I exercise first thing in the morning. [↩]
- They always seem to be on Wednesdays and I have Wednesday night hockey games. [↩]
- Participants are apparently getting a free Nike Tshirt and the volunteers helping out with the study all got Nike shoes. Which, for the female, were, of course, pink. [↩]
- I think. I asked the volunteers doing the scan “How does this work?” and they were all “lasers… I think. [↩]
- I mentioned it in the footnote. You are reading the footnotes, right? [↩]
Earlier today, Cath posted a link to an article 1 in the latest issue of Nature about the importance to science history of archiving correspondence between scientists and how since everyone communicates by emails, and Tweets, and IMs, and texts, and Facebook messages these days (as opposed to the handwritten letters in the old-time-y days of yore), no one thinks to preserve these. The article talked about how scientists should work with archivists to determine which documents – both paper and virtual – should be archived for historians to be able to work with someday and that this archiving needs to be funded. As the author put it: “We want our scholarly successors to be able to follow the twists and turns of the scientific, political and personal pathways” related to important scientific discoveries.
Now I realize that I haven’t stumbled upon a groundbreaking scientific discovery… yet. But perhaps some of my correspondence with my colleagues should be preserved for history just in case. To that end, I give you just a smattering of examples of my daily correspondence with colleagues. The names of other parties have been changed to protect the innocent – “OP” in these transcripts stands for the “other person”:
Email exchanges with a colleague who works in my building:
|Me:||I noticed the ½ price tea lattes on the white board at lunch today and got all excited about the “½ price” aspect… but then I realized I’ve never had a tea latte. Have you ever had one?
|OP:||I don’t know! I really like tea, and lattes, so I don’t see where they could go wrong. But that is a question we will probably have to answer by experience.
|Me:||Ah, yes, experience is the answer. I like your evidence-based line of thinking
|OP:||Yes, it’s hard, but we must do the field work!
|Me:||My shoulder hurts, my computer is being slow and I hate MS Word. Care to go get a coffee?
|OP:||That is a really sad story! I think we must get coffee. 10 minutesÉ Nuts, it happened again… my keyboard switches to Spanish almost every afternoon and suddenly I have É instead of a question mark, and è instead of a single quotation. Every. Single. Afternoon…
|Me:||Clearly your account is possessed by the ghost of a Spanish-speaking individual who was murdered in the afternoon and now returns to haunt computers from beyond the grave. 10 minutes sounds good. Shall I meet you at the front?
|OP:||Yes, clearly! I hadnèt though of that. I need to grab my jacket so ièll grab you in the process. (ahhhhh)
|Me:||Do we need free coffee2 today?
|OP:||Yup, uh huh, yes.
|Me:|| Excellent. I like that you provided a second and third opinion on this matter. Very efficient!
|Me:||Thanks for the feedback! I’ll make those changes ASAP! And coffee at 2 pm sounds delightful! You can tell me all about your conversation with [name redacted]!
I like exclamation points!
|OP:|| Yes! Me! Too!!!
Email exchange with a colleague who lives on the other side of the country:
|OP:||I’m currently working on a Google document with 3 other people simultaneously. This shit is awesome.
I’m so living in the future right now.
|Me:||I was on a webinar with people from all over North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa this morning. Now I’m on a webinar with, among others, peeps from the Institute of Medicine in the US, learning about how they are working on Obamacare re: determining what things actually need to be covered by mandatory health care. And I’m doing all this in my pyjamas!
The future indeed.
Email exchange with a colleague with whom I was collaborating on writing a grant application:
How does one modify page numbers? I need mine to start at 11, and Microsoft word is a giant bitch. Have I mentioned how much I hate this program?
In other news, I’m almost done everything.
|Me:||W00t to almost done everything!
As for page numbers, you just have to do the following:
Insert –> Page numbers — then click “Format” - then click the circle next to “Start at” and type the page number you want to start your numbering from. And presto! You have the glorious page number!
|OP:||Ya, that’s the weird thing. I don’t have “Format” or a “start at” circle. I HATE WORD SO MUCH.
No worries. I’ve just created another document with 10 blank pages. I’ll let Adobe fix it for me. W00t!
In terms of the rest of the numbering though – how do we make sure that everything is numbered consecutively? Or do we? I mean, my CV apparently goes first, which would make all the numbering on your CV out of whack. Or do we care about this?
|Me:||I think the numbering of the CVs is separate for each CV. At least, that’s how I’ve always done it because it would be an insane exercise to get the numbering right when you have multiple applicants. [Name of computer system from granting agency] generates page numbers for the pages it produces, but sometimes it makes pages like 10a, 10b just to fuck with you. Because [Name of computer system from granting agency], like MS Word, is evil. And probably run by spiders. I think the best thing to do is to generate the pdf of all the crap that you put into [Name of computer system from granting agency] to see what page numbers it gives you and then we can number our two documents (“Research Proposal” and “Summary of Research Proposal”) based on whatever the last page of the [Name of computer system from granting agency]-generated pdf is.
I hope that makes sense. Because my brain is so tired right now! So tired!
|OP:||It does. This grant writing crap deserves a punch in the head. Fortunately I’m going to quiet my demons by feeding them beer in exactly 2 hours.
Science without beer is just torture.
|Me:||Why can’t we just come up with an idea and then [Granting Agency] & [Other Granting Agency] just give us a bunch of money based on our brilliant idea, without making us do stupid things like sort out page numbers on pdfs? Just give us money and beer and let us get to the sciencing!
Where in this case, the “it” is me!
Item #81 on my 101 list is: participate in five research projects (as a research subject, not a researcher) and I recently heard about a very cool research project called the BC Generations Project that I’m eligible to participate in.
From their website:
“With five regional study teams and hundreds of thousands of Canadians participating, the project may help researchers better understand why some people develop cancer and other chronic diseases. The main funder of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project is theCanadian Partnership Against Cancer, with regional funders contributing additional paid and in-kind support.
In many cases, the known risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases (such as heart disease or diabetes) are similar. By following a large group of people over a long period of time (known as a prospective cohort), this initiative will help researchers learn much more about how environment, lifestyle and genes contribute to both cancer and related chronic diseases.”
When you join up, you fill out a questionnaire about all sorts of lifestyle factors, family history, personal health history, etc. There’s also an option to go to an “assessment centre” where they will measure your bone density and body mass index1 and they may ask you for a blood and urine sample.
The project is slated to go on for 25 years (i.e., until 2037!), and the researchers will be contacting participants to do other assessments in the future, as well as tracking health care usage and such.
Being a science nerd such as I am, as well as someone who loves the fill out surveys, this gets me giddy. And knowing that I’m contributing to our understanding of the interaction of genes, lifestyle, and the environment on chronic diseases is just icing on the cake.
If you are between the ages of 35-69 and live in Canada, I encourage you to check it out and consider participating ((The link is to the BC Generations Project, but I’m sure you can find information about how to sign up in your province on their site somewhere.))!
- BMI is calculated from height and weight, which you self-report in the questionnaire. But self-reports of height and weight aren’t always accurate (people tend to report themselves as taller and lighter than they are), so having it actually measured by a researcher gives better quality information. [↩]
Hey, remember when I started a nerdy science blog with my friend Dave? The one that I had to, sadly, take my leave from when I started my MBA? Well, that site has been picked up by University Affairs magazine’s site!
If you are interested in issues affecting early career scientists – and you know you are – I encourage you to check out The Black Hole over at its shiny new home on the University Affairs site!
My friend Dr. Erika is giving a public lecture as part of the Café Scientifique series of public lectures:
Our next café will happen on Tuesday September 27 at the Railway Club (579 Dunsmuir Street) at 7:30pm. Our speaker that evening will be Erika Eliason, an expert on Pacific salmon migration who has been featured on the UBC Public Affairs webpage. Her talk that evening will be:
Pacific Salmon and Climate Change
Every year, millions of Pacific salmon return from the ocean to the Fraser River to perform their upriver, adult spawning migration. Pacific salmon typically return to spawn in the same stream where they were born. This has resulted in many geographically and genetically distinct populations. In recent years, warm river temperatures have been associated with high mortality during the upriver spawning migration, raising clear conservation concerns. My research is focused on understanding why salmon die when the water gets too warm and how different populations vary in their susceptibility to warm temperatures.
We hope to see you there!
-Your Café Sci Vancouver Organizers (http://blogs.ubc.ca/cafesci/)
It will be everything you ever wanted to know about Pacific Salmon and Climate Change. Be there are be square.
A friend of mine brought this awesome news story to my attention the other day:
New drug could cure nearly any viral infection
Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Lab have developed technology that may someday cure the common cold, influenza and other ailments.
From the article:
It’s really rather mindboggling to imagine a drug that can work against all viruses and that specifically targets only those cells that are infected with a virus, leaving all non-infected cells unharmed. Imagine a world where we don’t have to worry about everything from the common cold to HIV to Ebola. Rather unbelievable.
Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.
In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them — including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.
The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. “In theory, it should work against all viruses,” says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.
Of course, whenever I hear of something that sounds too good to be true, I have to wonder what the catch is. Because the development of a wonder drug sounds like the kind of thing that one might see at the start of a zombie apocalypse in a horror movie. Needless to say, given my love of virology and my apprehension about zombies, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this developing story.
Here’s the full article, if you are interested in reading such things.
Image Credit: From the Wikimedia Commons.
Café Scientifique: Old Drugs, Bad Bugs: Antibiotic Treatment of Lung Infections in Cystic Fibrosis – July 27 at the Railway Club
Just a quick plug for an upcoming Café Scientifique event:
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a fatal genetic disease that affects many Canadian children and young adults. Though CF is a multi-organ disease, chronic infection and inflammation of the lungs are particularly detrimental to health. Persons with CF can get infected with unusual bacteria that are hard to clear in part because they are, or become, highly resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment of airway infections in CF is further complicated by the fact that one class of antibiotics can cause resistance to another class, and some antibiotics can interfere with immune system processes. My research is focused on understanding how these “bad bugs” evade antibiotics, and the possible side-effects of chronic drug use.
Given that I’m playing in the Longest Game of Hockey specifically to raise money for, and awareness about, Cystic Fibrosis – and that Agatha happens to be a friend of mine – I really wish I could attend this but I have a hockey game that night. But I thought I’d pass along the info in case any of you are interested!
|Date:||Tuesday July 27th, 7:30pm|
|Location:||Railway Club (579 Dunsmuir St)|
|Topic:||Old Drugs, Bad Bugs: Antibiotic Treatment of Lung Infections in Cystic Fibrosis|
|Speaker:||Agatha Jassem, from the Department of Pathology at UBC|
Many years ago, I read about a study in which the researchers measured the heart rate1 of recreational hockey players. And I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a similar study on hockey *fans*. Going through the first three rounds of the playoffs and the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, I can tell you anecdotally that watching your beloved hockey team in playoff games is hella stressful2. But I am a scientist and we scientist types do not rely on anecdotal evidence. No, we need observable measurements! Thus, I have decided to conduct a little experiment. I – along with whomever I can convince to also partake – shall wear my heart rate monitor for Stanley Cup Finals games 3 and 43. I shall record my average and peak heart rates. And I shall report my findings here, in The Journal of NTBTWK. My recruitment strategy4 has already secured me one participant and I am now expanding my recruitment efforts to this here blog posting. So, here’s the ask:
Are you going to be watching games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final? Do you own a heart rate monitor and would you be willing to wear it during those games? If you answered “yes” to these questions, leave a message in the comments. Or email me. Or Facebook, tweet, DM, IM, text, call, or send me a message via telepathy5.
Also, if you know anyone else who might want to partake in this groundbreaking piece of research, let me know!
So I was driving to brunch today and as I flipped the radio station over to CBC, who should happen to be on the air, but my friend Erika, who was being interviewed on Quirks & Quarks about her rock star paper in Science!
You can listen to the show here – she’s the second segment – the one called “Super Salmon.”