Archive for: October, 2012

Campaign season! For organelles?

Oct 31 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Outreach is a strong theme among the online scientific community. We talk about the importance of engaging the public, talking to politicians, and interacting with students. In essence, outreach is about making connections with people outside our field and, in some way, sharing the wonders and importance of science.

Outreach can present many challenges for scientists, one of which is finding opportunities to engage in outreach. We feel we lack time, ideas, support, audience... But with the rise of social media use, new opportunities open up, and sometimes without any intent, we can stumble right into them.

I am very active on Twitter. It's a way for me to stay connected to the science online community, even when I'm short on time or energy to keep up with the avalanche of blog posts and comments the sphere puts out every day. I follow many scientists all over the map, with regard to geography and disciplines. One of them is Anne Osterrieder, a Research and Science Communication Fellow in Plant Cell Biology at Oxford Brookes University, and last week, she started reposting some rather curious tweets. They were from accounts named after cellular organelles, which seemed to be touting their supremacy among organelles or attacking others for the problems they create.

Anne discovered that these tweets were coming from an AP biology class in Illinois.

Two of my favorite organelles, lit with fluorescent labels

The core idea originated with Marna Chamberlain, a teacher at Piedmont High School in California: Get students to run campaigns for a cell organelle - posters, speeches, flyers on why theirs was the supreme organelle.

Brad Graba at William Fremd High School in Illinois decided to run with it and extended the campaign to include Twitter.

Then something happened that Brad Graba did not intend, I think. Alerted by Anne (who posted a great early intro), scientists began joining in under the hashtag #organellewars. (If you're unfamiliar with Twitter, a hashtag is simply a handle for tagging and finding related messages.) Before long, organelles were discussing their functions and failures with scientists around the world. The project was even mentioned on BBC Radio!

It's clear from the Twitter campaign that Mr. Graba has some smart and creative students to teach. But I think it also shows that cool and unexpected things can happen when you begin to integrate social media with education and outreach. Thanks to Mr. Graba and his class for letting us crash their project! I hope they gained something from the experience. I know I certainly did! 🙂

Oh, and one more thing: It's time to get out the vote! You can vote for your favorite organelles during the Mr. Graba's AP Bio class periods today (one is up now [9:45 am, EDT] and others will be up at about 10:15 and 2:50).

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One moment

Oct 07 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

You won't have much time.

All you have is a moment...

So little time to connect.

But that moment can change the game.

One brief moment might be all you get...

but one spark can kindle a flame.

Or you might capture them with that moment...

and keep them engaged until the job is done.

Then again maybe nothing changes.

An interaction with no response.

A random collision, and you both wander away.

 This is how biology happens.

Cells, proteins, DNA, and other molecules crashing into one another... Sometimes they stick, others they don't.But what happens in those moments can change the system - upset or restore balance, redirect outcomes.


Human interactions are not so different. Connections are made in moments.

Or not.


Whatever happens in that moment defines what happens in the next.

In biology, transient interactions are destined for specific outcomes. Factors may change them - promote their initiation, amplify their output, prolong their existence - but even the tweaks are hardwired.


What if you could influence that moment?

Human interactions are not so deterministic. For that, we may be grateful.

Or perhaps wistful.


What if you had the potential to shape what happens in the next?

From random encounters in a crowd to introductions by colleagues to the opening lines of a narrative, every connection begins with one moment.


What if you could extend your influence?

We have opportunities to connect with people at every level, to share the import and intrigue of science (or anything else).


All you have is a moment.

But if we want them to be engaged, to stay for the end of the story, to return for more, that first moment can make all the difference.


What happens in yours?

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