Does Your Brain Have Self-Control?

March 2nd, 2012

Yesterday I interviewed Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of “The Willpower Instinct”, on Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour.

We discussed how willpower and self-control work, how the brain functions with regard to willpower, and tips and techniques to short circuit your habits in order to build self-control. The interview was an hour well-spent with many lessons learned. You can view it below.

Additionally, I recommend The Willpower Instinct as a great read and tool for anyone searching for insight into the way their brains work.

I Am A Scientist…

May 27th, 2011

I think this speaks for itself…

DrKikiMadScientist

Many thanks to Jeff Steinmetz at Urge Productions for the pictures, Anastassia Babanskaia for the styling, and Kat Steinmetz for the make-up. These pictures were taken last year pre-pregnancy; I’m working to get back into the amazing shape I was in when these pics were taken. Note the intentional lack of a lab coat anywhere.

Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour - Celebrating Women

May 6th, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Ada Lovelace, and the challenges and successes of women in science. On Ada Lovelace Day, I spoke with … from the Association for Women in Science about, yes, you guessed it… women in science.

It was a fabulous conversation, and I do believe that we did, indeed, celebrate the women in the field. And, really, I think that is the key to continued success these days. People are not responsive to whining about problems. People want to feel hopeful, to see positive role-models, be given next steps they can take themselves, and to know that their actions can make a difference.

If you are a female success in science or technology, get out there! Tell people about yourself, and don’t be afraid to do it. People want to know how you got to where you are.

Be a model for future generations of women in science by living successfully yourself.

Anyway, here is the show. Check it out:

Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour - Voyage of Darwin’s Beagle

March 25th, 2010

Recently, on Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour, I spoke with Karen James of the Natural History Museum in London, UK. She’s a biologist working on several interesting and interrelated projects.

First, at the Natural History Museum, she works as a botanist and has been involved in an international effort to develop a genetic bar-coding process for plants. She is also responsible for their Darwin research memorabilia… i.e. specimens that Darwin collected while traveling to the Galapagos and back, like the Floreana mockingbirds, which were massively important in the development of Darwin’s great idea.

Additionally, she is the science director for the Beagle Project, whose aim is to build a replica of the HMS Beagle and sail it as a research vessel to the Galapagos.

You can hear all about it here. Or, watch it here…

The world is lucky to have such vibrant scientists as Dr. James.

Thoughts On Ada Lovelace Day

March 24th, 2010

Ada Lovelace was an intellectual woman in an age when women weren’t pushed to be intellectual. Her mother made sure she was trained in mathematics rather than literature so that she wouldn’t follow in her father’s (the poet Lord Byron’s) footsteps.

This training as well as her place in society put her in a position to meet and work with an academic named Charles Babbage who hired her to help on his “Analytical Engine.” Ada took the project and ran with it, elaborating on the idea in notes that contain the first computer algorithm. She is now considered the world’s first computer programmer.

There are many things that made the story of Ada Lovelace possible: her noble birth and marriage, her mother’s reactionary nature, her training, the people she met in life, etc. But, central to the story is the passion that Ada had for her academic endeavors.

Had she simply been a translator, that’s all she would have done for Charles Babbage… translated an article from Italian that he could then use in developing his ideas. Instead, she dug into the ideas and came up with ideas of her own. She wasn’t afraid to write those ideas down and share them.

And, now we celebrate her and what she helped make possible.

Women today have it fairly easy compared to the women of the past (I’m referring to women in first world nations here… I know there are many women around the world who still struggle). We can do what ever we set our minds to. We can take on the historically female held roles of mother, teacher, nurse, secretary, or we can be doctors, lawyers, astronauts… it’s up to us.

The doors are open like they never have been. All we have to do is walk through them.

By finding and following our passions, we create new opportunities for the women who will follow. We make it easier for them to do what they dream of doing.

I am lucky in that as a young scientist, I was able to find wonderful female mentors to learn from. I saw that it is possible to be a successful woman in science. I saw that it is possible to have a family at the same time. I saw that I could do it too if I wanted.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough female role models in the sciences. The number of women in academics is growing, but it is still not equal to the number of men. It’s not because women don’t like science, or aren’t studying science. The numbers just drop between graduate school and getting jobs.

That means that most women entering graduate school aren’t seeing other women in those positions of  responsibility.

And, if seeing is believing, then we still have work to do.

But, that will come with time, and in the meantime, I’d like to thank all the women, like Ada, who toiled in the science or technology that inspired their questions.

Thank you for creating a world where I can ask questions, too.

Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour - Hacking Science

March 3rd, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Ariel Waldman of Spacehack.org on Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour.

We talked a lot about citizen science and the importance of opening up science to the public. She told me about several interesting projects, like GalaxyZoo, which relies on the public to process massive amounts of astronomical data.

Ariel also talked a bit about what got her interested in space and the realm of collaborative science.

You can listen to the interview here.

Or, watch it on ODTV - the On-Demand TWIT Video archive.

You can catch Ariel (and me) at SXSW if you are interested in hearing more. We are speaking on a panel called Open Science: Create, Collaborate, Communicate on Monday, the 15th, at 9:30am.

Michelle Thaller on Science

April 29th, 2009

I met and had the opportunity to spend a lot of time talking about the universe with the fabulous Michelle Thaller at CWA. Michelle is a astronomer, and as far as I know is still the head of education and outreach at the Spitzer Space Telescope (she was considering a new job with NASA last I heard). She initially derived her inspiration for space and communicating its wonders from Carl Sagan and George Lucas’ Star Wars.

Here is a brief interview about what keeps her inspired:

What’s Your Story?

September 4th, 2008

I’ve been invited by the Center for STEM Excellence at Scramento State University to give the Keynote talk at their Expanding Your Horizons conference this October. As a result, I’ve been thinking about all sorts of topics for my talk. Do I talk about science in general, specific areas of STEM, my personal experiences?

In my thinking and searching I came to realize that as the Keynote speaker it is my job not to inform, but to be inspirational and motivational… to get the girls at the conference fired up and excited about both the day ahead and their own futures. But, how to do that when I have my own struggles with inspiration and motivation on a daily basis?

I think I’ve come to an answer; lead by example. How do I get past those daily hurdles, and keep moving? How did I find a career that I love? How did you?

I want to hear the stories of real women from real women, especially if you are working in a STEM related career. I want to share our stories.

  • What do you do as a career?
  • How did you wind up in your career (did you choose it or did it choose you)?
  • Do you love what you do?
  • What do you love most about what you do?
  • How do you stay motivated (are your motivations internal or external)?
  • What is your measure of success?

I’ll take your answers as comments here, emails (kirsten at this week in science dot com), video comments on youtube or seesmic, however you see fit to send them.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to use these stories to motivate not only the girls at the conference, but everywhere, and of all ages.

Amazing Female Scientist

May 15th, 2008

I just read a profile of an amazing female scientist, named Susan Greenfield. She’s a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, and the director of the Royal Institution in London. She, being a woman and having reached such a place of distinction within academia, is a rarity in science.

According to statistics from the Association for Women in Science, in 2001 women made up 20.6 percent of those people employed in tenured academic positions for more than 10 years. Career longevity for women in the sciences appears to be something that’s lacking.

A more recent report suggests that the reason for the attrition rate (52% of women in sciences leave with the greatest rate being approximately 10 years into the career path, which coincides with the average woman’s thirties) may be due in part to hostile work environments that fail to take the female role as mother into account.

A brief look at Susan Greenfield’s life suggests that she continues to contend with the male dominated scientific environment, and may have made some compromises to her personal life in order to be so successful.

“It’s unfair. I publish three or four papers a year in peer-reviewed journals,” she says. She fits it all in by “not doing what other people do: gardening, watching television, sleeping in late. I wake up between four and five. If it’s a London day, I get the 6.30 train from central Oxford, where I live. I’ll have a working breakfast here with my second in command, then a day of meetings or interviews. In the evening, I may chair an event or go to a reception.”

On Oxford days she wears T-shirt and jeans, but is still in the lab by 7.30am, planning experiments, applying for grants, analysing and writing papers. She plays squash three times a week. With a trainer. “He pushes me to improve my skills.” At weekends? “I write, read, prepare talks.”

Her marriage to Oxford professor of physical chemistry Peter Atkins ended in 2005. Is all this activity a way to escape loneliness? “You can be lonely when you’re with someone,” she says quickly, “as much as when you’re by yourself.”

It is somewhat of a chicken and egg question, however. Is it only driven personalities, male or female, who are able to succeed so outstandingly? Or, is it the environment that engenders the sink-or-swim behaviors; people learning, and thus believing that if they do not work 16 hour days they’ll never get anywhere, and only those who do so being rewarded. It puts most women in a position of having to choose between family and career.

Usually, family will win.

Yet, I’m among a growing number of women who have put off starting a family in order to pursue my career. Is this a wise choice? I will certainly find out sometime down the road. It’s certainly both a blessing and a hazard to be a woman in this century.

Making Things…

May 14th, 2008

A few weekends ago I went to the Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but having been to Burning Man several times I think I was hoping for more fire. Lots more fire. What I did see was surprising and entertaining, but alas I left before dark and missed the fire. There were robots, bartending robots, battlebots, rockets, diy projects galore, a camera obscura tent, steam punk beauty, power tool races, and much, much more.

I went to the faire with a few friends (Colin, Kepi, and Marshall), and ran into many friends while there. It seemed like everyone I know had either brought something to the faire, or was there to see what everyone else had brought. And, I think everyone else who attended had the same idea. The place was packed. The parking lot was full by noon. It seems that the Maker Faire has hit upon a very successful model.

Interestingly, Marshall and I were talking recently about how there aren’t many festivals in the US that really make science fun and engaging to the public. Sure, there’s the occasional festival for smart kids in which they compete in various contests of engineering, science, or intelligence. But, what about festivals that just make doing things based in science fun for everyone? From what I saw, the Maker Faire does just that, bringing together scientists, engineers, artists, actors, and diy-ers from all walks of life.

My favorite moment had to be when a young girl who couldn’t have been more than 9 years old told me about the potential for carbon nanotubes in creating cable for a space elevator (all this while playing with the robot she had built and brought to the faire with her dad). Her dad informed me that she had recently completed a report on nanotubes for school. What school does she go to?!? Or, is just a matter of parental guidance? Either way, that young girl has a brilliant future ahead.

All around, I had a great time. Check out some of my pics from the day: