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Mommy, PhD
Mom, wife and scientist. Committed to promoting science and destroying pseudoscientific claims.
Mom, wife and scientist. Committed to promoting science and destroying pseudoscientific claims.


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+SciMoms has launched a new feature: SciMoms Chats. You get a preview into our ongoing conversations about scientific issues. In this first chat, we discuss issues related to the use of placebos in medicine.
Be a fly on the wall of our SciMoms Chats! In this first of this series, read yesterday's conversation about research on placebo effects, ethics of using placebos in medicine and the need for compassion.

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Follow the +SciMoms webcomic!
Follow the SciMoms as we fight back against misinformation! In Lego form.

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The term wellness has been co-opted by pseudoscience and anti-science. Medicine isn't perfect but that doesn't mean all of it is fake. I would love to be able to talk about wellness (good choices about diet and exercise, for example) without denying the science on vaccines, without suggesting that life-saving technology like insulin is actually killing diabetics, without demonizing people who rely on medication to manage mental health. But instead of approaching wellness from a science-based perspective, SXSW has gone full woo, making wellness synonymous with anti-science, by inviting the likes of Kelly Brogan - an anti-vax, anti-insulin, anti-medication psychiatrist. #BumpBrogan

"SXSW, the festival to attend if you’re worth being photographed, now appears to embrace a movement that values feelings over facts and rejects crucial advancements in medicine. Perhaps the involvement of an AIDS denier in the pop culture phenomenon that is SXSW is a symptom of our pathological acceptance of alternative facts coming to a head. Perhaps the backlash against the festival's decision to include Brogan offers hope for a growing movement that values facts over beliefs."

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We have launched a new project as a spinoff of the Science Moms documentary. Check it out at +SciMoms and visit us at our website:

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I enjoyed this podcast today to help sort through what's been going on with the herbicide Dicamba.

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Hybrid #1: How do we know that every snowflake is unique?
Me: That’s a great question. It’s important to understand why we know things. In fact, the study of how we know what we know is called epistemology.
Hybrid #1: I thought it was knowledge-ology!

Here’s a discussion of whether snowflakes actually are unique that we found.

#ScienceMoms #SciMoms #ScienceMomMoment

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A friend of mine wrote a book! Definitely on my wishlist for the holiday/birthday extravaganza that is December at my house.
"At a time when funding for natural history collections is under siege, Christopher Kemp’s The Lost Species, which champions the irreplaceable value of these collections in the identification of new species, is a refreshing endorsement of both biodiversity and curatorial taxonomic expertise. Kemp shares stories of specialists who use their expertise to recognize new species among the numerous uncataloged and misidentified specimens in natural history museums across the world, from the raccoon-like olinguito discovered in the Chicago Field Museum’s mammal collections to the Ohbayashinema aspeira, a new species of parasitic nematode discovered in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C."

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We (the Science Moms ladies) have a launched a new project called +SciMoms! Check out our inaugural blog post!

Written by a graduate school friend of mine who is now a NIH-funded neuroscience professor at a public university.

I have seen a few arguments that suggest the abhorrrent soon-to-be tax on waived graduate student tuition is fair and that students deserve to be taxed just like others.

They are. Already.

Before I get into specifics, let me boil something down: graduate education in academic science follows a similar model of apprenticeship as skilled trades (especially organized trades). A graduate student is an apprentice; they are working while receiving mentored training from an expert. A postdoc is a journeyman/woman, a person who has passed the requisite exams that demonstrated proficiency at the trade to his/her superiors. Journeymen/women that build a reputation and gain business that outstrips their time (and are fully independent) become Master Tradesmen/women. This process can take many years in all professions. In academics it's 10-15 years between apprentice (graduate student) and master (professor). There is also about a 10-20% success rate transitioning from Journeyman/woman to Master (much of which boils down to luck).

Graduate students in academic science WORK while they study. Often 60 hours+ per week. For their efforts, they receive living stipends WHICH ARE TAXED AS NORMAL INCOME. I know this because I paid taxes on every penny of graduate stipend I earned. I made the equivalent of $5/hour (no overtime) for 5.5 years while working on my PhD. That was about minimum wage at the time.

My graduate work led to new insights into how brain cells generate action potentials, a fundamental unit of information in the brain. And I loved my job so I didn't complain (though I worried) about being unable to save much for the future. During this time I had no retirement account. No signing or annual performance bonuses. Just hard work for enough money to survive and a hope of a future as a skilled independent scientist. Just an apprentice like anyone else earning a skilled trade.

During the 5.5 years I was a graduate student the university waived tuition for me. They do it for most in academic science because the work is a core need for our biomedical science engine (the best in the world, I might add, and something for which we should all be proud). They do it because there would be no graduate students from backgrounds other than the uber wealthy if they didn't. There is still a lot of disproportionate representation of wealthy types in graduate school, but it would be absolute in the absence of tuition waivers. Students don't ever see that money. It only exists for schools to justify the expense of keeping administrators and professors to train this workforce.

In the end, you all need to know that graduate students receiving stipends are not sheltered from taxation. They work for their money in exactly the same way an apprentice electrician does, with the exception that grad student training takes WAY longer (and pays LESS). AND THEY PAY TAXES ON THEIR INCOME JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE.

Taxing tuition waivers for grad students is NOT fair and does nothing to equalize tax burden across working people at the same level of training. All it does is guarantee that our next generation of American scientific innovators will be (A) small, (B) rich, and (C) less equipped to continue keeping America at the forefront of scientific research.
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