Things That Make Dr. Isis a Sentimental Mess..

I am a real sucker for stories of old timey physiology. I like to hear about data, but I also love the stories of how discoveries were made. What were the interpersonal relationships that existed to facilitate the discoveries that are at the core of our knowledge? That’s one of the gems of being an academic scientist. Sometimes I let myself get caught up in the negative and critical, that I forget that this should be hilarious…

Yesterday I gave a big talk in the hospital, summarizing the work I’ve done here at MRU. My last real talk here. It was very well attended and I got generally good feedback, but it was bittersweet. I was sort of left with a feeling of not-quite-closure. The science is easy to finish, tie a bow on, and move, but there’s still the personal interactions I have had here and those didn’t feel closed.

Then today one of the older faculty members from my department came by to visit. He and I have not interacted frequently, but he has helped me every time I’ve needed it. He’s been kind and patient with me and I admire him a lot. He came by to tell me how much I’ll be missed and how much I have challenged him to reevaluate his own work. He also gave me a gift – a book from a symposium around a topic that I didn’t know we shared an interest in…

He left me an inscription…

inscription 2

I was really touched.  But, the best part of his gift are the stories inside of it. Imagining him at this symposium in 1966, interacting with the people that have defined the way that I think now. Seeing his notes and being able to imagine what he was thinking. The book is filled with his doodles and notes…


I’m grateful to him for coming to see me and for this little piece of our professional relationship and our shared history to take with me, and I can imagine the day that I might pass his gift on to someone else. Hopefully I can also pass along a little of his kindness.

Bullshit and Bananas..

You wake up. It’s a new day and you only need to do two more experiments to finish a project that you’ve been working on for three years. This, the project that has become like the thorn in the paw of the lion.  But, you find a little hope and a little optimism. Just one more day, you assure yourself.

If only the mouse would cooperate and pluck the damned thorn. What the balls is this shit?


You rally and walk outside to find some solace in the sun and warmth of a beautiful spring day only to discover…



Hilarious Things People Say To Me..

I only started training for Ironmans after I got tenure because I realized that I needed to wake up every day scared shitless in order to function.

– My collaborator on getting tenure



How Not to Write An Apology…

Following up on earlier’s debacle of titties in Elsevier’s Journal of Proteomics, Inez van Korlaar of Elsevier shows us the right way to handle your journal’s sexist bullshittery:

elsevier response

Look how easy that was! “Whoa! We’re going to fix this post haste!!”  Not hard at all.

It’s a damned shame the journal’s editor Juan Calvete could not have followed suit. Nope, this guy pokes the nest by sending the same email response that I know many of you have received:

Dear colleague,

Thanks for kindly letting me know that a graphical abstract published in Journal of Proteomics is getting unwelcome publicity. Although I, personally, so not think that the alluded images are sexist (as well as I would not consider it sexist if a man were represented), at least this was neither the intention of the authors nor of the editor, I can agree that this kind of images may be inappropriate for illustrating a scientific paper, and consequently have asked our journal manager to remove them. If anyone has been offended, officially apologize for that, and I hope to give settle the case as soon as possible to devote to the lab which is what  take me up most of the day.


This is amazing. Just amazing. How hard we have made Dr. Calvete’s day! Bothering him with something that is really trivial and clearly not sexist because it could have been a dude holding coconuts over his boobs. But, whatever. He’s going to cave to us overzealous manhaters and settle this quickly so that it doesn’t distract any more from his real job – being in the lab.

Protip: If you don’t want to have to deal with the shit that gets published in your journal, don’t be an editor.

Then again, I learned years ago that I am not really in the business of changing hearts and minds. I’m just happy to have the titties out of the journal, even if the journal editor is being a whiny ass baby about it.  For those of you who have missed it and might be curious about whether it is appropriate to put these sorts of images in a journal, Cackle of Rad has some advice for you.

Yet, I still can’t believe that this is something that would have to be so clearly spelled out.

face palm

Reason #140 Why Sexist Bullshit in Academia is Not Okay

A couple of days ago I got an email from a postdoc at another Major Research University lamenting the poor behavior of the faculty in her department and wondering how to “reform academia” and fix our broken system. I wanted to reassure her that the system isn’t broken everywhere and that some of us really are interested in mentoring students and creating positive but rigorous professional environments. I wanted to tell her that I didn’t think that academia was broken, per se. Like any industry or government organization, there are parts where politics and other fuckedupedness prevail, but I have experienced some very supportive environments in my training. Not that everything has been perfect, but they’ve been good and have allowed me to be reasonably successful.

I get myself feeling all warm and fuzzy and hopeful again…just in time to be reminded of how many dudes are taking regular dumps in the sandbox. Damn it.

cereal eatingPier Giorgio Righetti is Professor of Chemistry at Politecnico Di Milano. For the last several years he’s been publishing frivolous papers in the Journal of Proteomics examining the proteomes of assorted random fluids. I’ll admit I thought we moved on from fishing for proteomes in random stuff in 2008, but apparently this guy is still really into it. Each of his papers is accompanied by a graphical abstract. Some of them are pretty innocuous. Consider this one from a paper investigating the proteome of champagne:

Graphical Abstract 1I suspect they are an attempt by the authors at being cheeky. But, of course, there is a not-so-fine line between cheeky and innocuous and damned offensive and this dude hopscotches back and forth over it like whoa…

Graphical Abstract 2From here.

Graphical Abstract 3From here.

Graphical Abstract 4From here.

One of the tweeps called bullshit upon him and this was his response…

righetti response

…amounting essentially to “Why can’t you ladies take a joke?” Center square on the bingo card, my friends. Center square.

Why is this a problem? Because Professor Righetti is continuing to publish his hilarious graphical abstracts (see this month’s issue)  and I suspect it is but a matter of time before we get more titties. He is also on the editorial board of several journals (Electrophoresis, J. Chromatography, J. Capillary Electrophoresis, BioTechniques, Proteomics, Journal of Proteomics, and Proteomics Clinical Applications, according to his faculty page), including the journal with his hilarious graphical abstracts. He’s essentially using his leadership to be a huge creeper.  Worse, the leadership of the journal is letting it happen. It is impossible to consider submitting a paper to that journal without thinking that the associate editor (and perhaps his affiliates) see me as nothing more than a holder of coconuts. Nothing more than an object.

Once upon a time, when I was but a wee trainee scientist, a more senior man in my field called me “sexy” during a professional interaction. He told me how great it is that I am young and smart and beautiful. It shocked me. “Sexy” really is the equivalent of “I have considered putting my penis inside of you” and I have never, ever been able to shake the knowledge of that. Even though it’s been years, I think of it every time I am in a meeting with him. I’ve never sat at a table with him since and not thought “I wonder if he’s thinking about me.”  Am I going to be spank material after we part ways? It disgusts me, although I have at least been able to stifle the disgust enough to participate in these meetings. I won’t ever, ever forget it though.

The editors of this journal have essentially done the same thing, allowing Professor Righetti to remind us ladies that we are a place to rest his old man member. I hate that I have to council women trainees about the men at meetings that are known more for playing grab ass than doing good science. I hate that I now have to point to the list of journals that are not only biased toward women, but openly treat them like sexual objects.

I would sincerely hope that the journal’s editor Juan Calvete would consider the message that these articles are sending to his hermanas in ciencia (incuyendo la Dra Isis) and retract the images.  Leave the science if it, indeed, be good science. But, there is no need for the sexualized images in any publication.

It’s not cheeky or funny. It’s an offensive reminder of just how little women are valued by many of their male counterparts.

man-boobs(For my next paper submission, from here)