A Case About Probiotics

Erin Andrews is sold on probiotics.  Are you?

Erin Andrews is sold on probiotics. Are you?

 
Erin Andrews is trying to sell me probiotics.1 She is walking through a bustling gym wearing a sharp blazer and a fresh blow out. Male patrons gawk. She bubbles that the euphoric powers of probiotics can improve digestion and immunity. She takes probiotics, and she has grown tall, healthy, and has a sweet gig interviewing football players. And now every gym member is clamoring to get a slice of that probiotic pie.

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The Metamorphosis of Biology: Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Figure 1: Even I am grossed out enough by this picture to reconsider the merits of the weasel.  Figure from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Donnola_vs_lepre.JPG

Figure 1: Even I am grossed out enough by this picture to reconsider the merits of the weasel. Figure from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Donnola_vs_lepre.JPG

 
In fourth grade, my classmates and I were assigned a project. We were to research our favorite animal at the local library, and give a presentation on this animal to the rest of the class. When it was time for our presentations, most of my classmates excitedly gabbed about lions, tigers, humpback whales, or dolphins. I went in front of the class to present my favorite animal, the weasel.

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The Science of Potholes: A Pittsburgh Story

Braddock Ave has fallen victim to the common woe of potholes

Braddock Ave has fallen victim to the common woe of potholes

Another flat. I pull out the jack, grab the tire iron, and fumble the spare. As I switch out my tire, I curse the drivers, children, and small animals that pass without a sympathetic glance. On my way to the mechanic, I drive like an asshole, braking and swerving around the craters plaguing the streets. My tires receive no relief, as no street remains unscathed. Dropping my car off at the harried mechanic, I ponder how my tires could be so vulnerable to potholes. Why are potholes line up along the tire paths? Why do potholes cluster in packs? Why are most potholes round and cavernous?

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Nonfiction comments to a Ph.D. student (and the science of my awkward responses)

My life as a Ph.D. student is in some ways similar to life on a small isolated country. I have (perhaps foolishly) moved there willingly, and I intimately know a number of the residents. I have come to share with the inhabitants their remarkably common lifestyles, similar viewpoints, and a love for bar trivia.

It is often believed that we natives of this isolated country are innately taciturn, with a breeding that renders us paralyzed in the face of normal social interaction. In reality, we are mainly trained to make our chaotic stew of scientific thought into something useful to the public. Any Ph.D. student who has defended a qualifying exam, a dissertation, or received harsh comments from publication reviewers has experienced those challenging, aggravating, and all around exciting moments as we dexterously communicate blips of our academic thinking.

It might be surprising, then, that once I leave my isolated country of academia, a few simple questions I get from friends, family, strangers, and foes can be difficult to answer. How can just a couple of words render me speechless when my isolated country fixates on the art of scholarly communication? The answer lies in the silent thought process.

Here is a list of the 3 most common things people say to me when they hear I’m an engineering Ph.D.
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Global warming from a chilly scientist

A chilly scientist in Pittsburgh

“Global warming, my gluteus maximus,” Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin blasted on Facebook, alongside a picture of a snowy landscape taken in May, 2013. Although I am a scientist who understands and accepts the occurrence of global warming, the wearied look of my beaten down coat and the regularity of my water pipes freezing in April leaves such skepticism as no surprise. In five words, the politician captured a common perception of the much-discussed phenomenon of global warming.

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