Tag Archives: style

Scientific Style

I’ve fallen out of the practice of writing. It’s gotten to the point where I actually fear having to do it. There’s a manuscript hanging over my head, a paper that I desperately need to publish so that I’m known for something other than finding Candida albicans haploids (although, to be fair, this study also regards ploidy variation). More importantly, to wrap up the loose ends of my postdoctoral research and develop my own independent program.IMG_4027

If only I could wish that the words would write themselves. Except the paper is already written, had even been submitted and subject to review. At first glance, the rejection was hardly a blow – all reviewers agreed it was technically sound, however there were mixed feelings to the degree in which it advanced our knowledge and thus, wasn’t impactful enough for that journal. The solution seemed simple: a few quick edits and submit to a lower-tier journal.

That was five months ago. It shames me to admit that, I don’t usually operate at snail speed. Granted, that first semester as a faculty member, combined with the cross-country relocation was a substantial transition. Unbelievably, in that time, I set up a functioning lab, hired a technician and now have experiments in progress (!!!). But the manuscript continues to sit stagnant on my desktop. I usually circumvent writers block by finding an existing document and revising, editing and re-writing the whole damn thing to transform it into something distinct from the original. Not so with this paper.

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The brick wall my head keeps pounding into? I took the reviews personally. Strike that: I took the slightly less-than-glowing review personally. The positive review didn’t resonate in the least. As a naïve graduate student, some time ago now, I remember being told to not take these things personally. And most times, I think do a pretty good job of it. I’ve internalized that perspective to the point that I find myself frequently qualifying the comments I provide with the ubiquitous “it’s not you, it’s the science” statement. But is that the truth? I enthusiastically stand on my soapbox, advocating that scientists are individuals with interests and lives beyond just their science. Yet, that sentiment does not diminish the degree in which the work that we do; the research we perform and the context in which we convey the results and their significance reflects who we are.

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Scientific style has been on the forefront of my mind as I’ve been making decisions after decision on establishing the lab and the direction to move towards. So the “it’s not the science, it’s the lack of impact” comment struck an overworked and exposed nerve, disabling me in a way that I am not proud of. It wasn’t that I received that particular review, I support the rigor of peer-review, it’s that I knew it wasn’t an unfair statement. The paper, as previously submitted, DID lack meaningful insight and failed to emphasize the novelty of the results. I take full responsibility for its lackluster appearance. Ultimately, I appreciate the rejection – it has given me the opportunity to give the paper a desperately needed makeover.

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Why shouldn’t my scientific writing and research have a signature style? As with so many other elements of my life – I like being distinctive and striking to the beholder. I’m currently obsessed with residing at the intersection of form and function. Too ‘functional’ and you end up with boring ideas and dry writing. Too much form and flair and you run the risk of losing substance and credibility. I’ve spent hours crafting a single paragraph and months upon months playing with data visualization. Finding the balance between form and function not takes time, but an enormous amount of work, all in the hopes that it looks effortless.

In this day and age of ‘publish or perish’ in academics, my proclivity towards staying true to my style (not to mention my idealism towards mentoring) will certainly prevent me from being my most productive. I know that. But for me, external metrics (like number of papers published) are rarely sufficient for my sense of satisfaction. Up to this point, my own high expectations have guided me in my career, with measurable success. We’ll see if this holds true in the future.

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Mini-makeover

I am going to share one of my biggest fears.  That I will look exactly the same at my 20-year high school reunion as I did in high school. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to look old.  I just don’t want to have the exact same hairstyle, makeup or wardrobe as I did in high school. You know what I am talking about. Those middle aged women who scream “I need a makeover” only they don’t even know that they need a makeover.

But I don’t want to look trendy either. It’s a fine line to have a distinctive personal style and being stuck in a rut. And I like that I have a distinctive personal style. But sometimes you just need to update your look.

So I bought a new pair of glasses. They are basically the same shape as my old pair (that I had gotten while in college – 8 or 9 years ago) but they are RED.  Dark brownish-red, but red nevertheless.

And I bought an $8 box of hair color. A nice dark auburn color.  Quite the departure from my naturally blonde curls. I am not entirely sure how I got to be on this red kick, but here it is.

Give me a couple of months – I am sure that I will be making another change.

Procrastination…

Let’s see.  It’s been a productive weekend.  I’ve caught up with an old friend, repainted the kitchen, cleaned the entire apartment and even weeded out my closet, which then led me to do some ironing and even managed to watch some episodes of Top Chef.  And while I am happy to have done those things, as they have been on my to-do list for months now – they are not actually the task that I need to do.  I have a manuscript that needs to be revised.  I should be more than happy to work on it – it’s made it through the peer-review process at a more than respectable journal and there are just a couple of minor things that need to be addressed before it gets published.  But I just can’t sit down to work on it.  But it needs to get done SOON.  There are a couple of reasons why I think I am procrastinating:  1) this is the last chapter from my dissertation and I have spent the last six months trying to move on to other compelling biological phenomena and 2) it just feels like busy work.  Move this paragraph into the discussion and adjust this figure, clarify the logic for experiment X….Okay, okay, I really should just get to it.

But first, let me share the results of my painting project.  I had originally painted the kitchen a very deep, intense raspberry color – which I really liked, but it didn’t really jibe with the other colors of the apartment.  So I toned it down.  I prefer to call it “rhubarb” although it might also be considered by some to be “pepto bismol pink.”

Looking towards the bedroom

Looking into the living room

I think that I like it better.  It’s still under consideration.  The colors remind me of a bright and cheery springtime.  I am hoping that they will help me through the doom and gloom of the upcoming Minnesota winter.  But maybe it’s too girly?  But then, I am a girl….

Moving on a technical note.  I’ve done a lot of painting in my day – and I mean a lot.  I think I might have an addiction to color.  But I suppose there are worse things.  Anyhow, painting is about a thousand times more bearable if you have good quality paint.  Let me not recommend paint from Home Depot (at least the Minneapolis location) – it’s thick and globby and you need to use way more than you should.  However, Royal paint from Ace Hardware – excellent.  It goes on evenly and smoothly and you always have some leftover should you need a touch up here or there.

As mentioned before – I also cleaned out my closet.  It’s something I try to do about every six months or so.  I find it a good exercise to be perfectly honest with myself.  Do I really like this?  Or worst yet – does it really still fit me?  Most things I decide to purge I feel like it’s their time to go and I accept it.  But some…usually the clothes that no longer fit…I just can’t bring myself to part with.  But I do it anyway.  The pile(s) will hang around for a fair amount of time – a trial separation if you will – to see if there is anything that I truly cannot live without.  I hardly ever rescue anything and then the pile is finally donated to charity.  This most recent cleaning led to a 20% reduction of dresses and a 30% reduction of skirts.  Yet, as you can see below – I still have a sizable wardrobe (and yes, it is color-coded).

So why do I feel the need to go shopping?  Most likely because I am still procrastinating on the manuscript revisions – which now that I’ve spent the last 30 minutes writing this post, I really am going to work on now.

Or maybe I should go to the grocery store…